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Full text of "French furniture under Louis XV"

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LITTLE ILLUSTRATED BOOKS ON 

OLD FRENCH FURNITURE 

III. FRENCH FURNITURE 

UNDER LOUIS XV 



FRENCH FURNITURE 

I. French Furniture in the Middle 

Ages and under Louis XIII 
II. French Furniture under Louis XIV 

III. French Furniture under Louis XV 

IV. French Furniture under Louis XVI 

and the Empire 

ENGLISH FURNITURE 

( Previously published) 

I. English Furniture under the 

TuDORs AND Stuarts 
II. English Furniture of the Queen 
Anne Period 

III. English Furniture of the Chippen- 

dale Period 

IV. English Furniture of the Sheraton 

Period 

Each volume profusely illustrated with 

full-page reproductions and 

coloured frontispieces 

Crown %vo, Cloth, price /^s. 6d. net 
LONDON : WILLIAM HEINEMANN 




Secretary with adjustable inlaid front 

Period Louis XV. 

(Key-plates in style of Louis XVI) 



LITTLE ILLUSTRATED BOOKS ON 
OLD FRENCH FURNITURE III 

FRENCH FURNITURE 
UNDER LOUIS XV 

BY ROGER DE FELICE 

Translated by 
FLORENCE SIMMONDS 




LONDON MCMXX 

WILLIAM HEINEMANN 



The numerals in the following pages refer 
to the footnotes, and the asterisks to the 
index-glossary at the end of the book 



jDiO S3 



PRINTED AT THE COMPI ETE PRESS 
WEST NORWOOD LONDON S.E. 



INTRODUCTION 

Many people are inclined to see in the Louis XV 
Style only a very sumptuous and profusely or- 
namented elegance more in keeping with the 
pleasures of roues than with the simple family life 
of sober business folks like the majority of us. 
True, it is the perfect expression of a frivolous 
and voluptuous period marked by a passion 
for pleasure — all pleasure, from the most delicate 
intellectual and social delights to unalloyed 
debauchery — a period in which moderation 
was by no means a ruling virtue. No seat 
could be more suggestive of love and idleness 
than a sofa of 1750, nor could any furniture 
display more florid magnificence than some of 
the commodes Charles Cressent loaded with 
ormolu decoration, or some of Philippe Caffieri's 
elaborate bureaux. In fact, we may sum the 
matter up by admitting that such works, in spite 
of the incomparable beauty of the chasing, evoke 
a financier rolling in wealth rather than a gentle- 
man of noble race. 

If we consider form alone, we may think the 
inexhaustible caprices of Rococo wearisome, and 
its horror of straight lines and symmetry ex- 
aggerated. We may legitimately dislike its 
perpetual convexities and undulations, which 
sometimes degenerate into very disagreeable ex- 
crescences. We may allow that some of the 
commodes of this period are more than 

V 



vi INTRODUCTION 

portly ;_tlxey have the paunches of old farmers- 
general. 

Finally, when we take into account construc- 
tion, we must admit that their insistence on the 
curved line too often led the joiners and cabinet- 
makers of the first half of the eighteenth centuiy 
to forget that wood is not a plastic, homogeneous 
material, but a substance composed of fibres which 
are, as a rule, straight and parallel, a substance 
the texture of which must be respected if we 
demand solidity in the result. We see legs on 
heavy console-tables, legs known as pieds de biche 
or pieds en console^ which, with their S-shaped 
curves and their exaggerated attenuation towards 
the foot, bid defiance ahke to common sense and 
statical laws. • 

It is, however, hardly necessary to point out 
that these examples no more represent the sum 
of Louis XV furniture than the King, his favourites, 
and his boon companions represent the sum of 
French society, or Van Loo, Boucher, and Nattier 
the sum of French painting. We must not for- 
get that Soubise and Richelieu were contemporary 
with d'Alembert, Jussieu, Lavoisier, and many 
other distinguished savants^ also with Montes- 
quieu and the Encyclopaedists, devotees of social 
progress and the weal of humanity. This great 
period was at once the most frivolous and the 
most serious of centuries. The polished and 
corrupt society which masks all the rest for us, 
because it always occupied the front of the stage, 
was but a very small minority in the mass of the 



INTRODUCTION vii 

nation — the populace in town and country, the 
tradespeople, the lawyers, the provincial nobility 
— who were busily amassing wealth, gaining 
knowledge, awakening to a sense of their own 
importance, and aspiring to share in the increasing 
prosperity of the times. 

It is true that the lower middle classes had 
formed a numerous and well-to-do section of the 
community even in the seventeenth century ; 
cabinet-makers of the period did a good deal of 
work for them. But in the eighteenth century 
they increased tenfold perhaps in all the towns of 
the kingdom, for their ranks were swelled by a 
class which had scarcely existed before, especially 
in the northern provinces : that of the pros- 
perous rustic, farmer or small -holder. From 
Champagne to Gascony, and from Normandy to 
Provence, substantial prosperity succeeded to the 
hideous poverty of Louis XIV's reign. 

It was then that the farms and homesteads, 
mas and bastidgs, began to acquire those huge 
cupboards in which were ranged orderly piles of 
stout hempen sheets fragrant with wholesome 
washing and the scent of dried herbs, the pride 
of the good housewife, and an evident token of 
her prosperity ; kneading-troughs covered with 
carvings ; dressers with fine pierced metal fittings, 
on which gaily coloured china and well-polished 
pewter were proudly displayed ; comfortable 
arm-chairs in turned cherry-wood, cosily fitted 
with square cushions of coloured linen, stuffed 
with the fine down of Christmas geese. The 



viii INTRODUCTION 

excellent provincial cabinet-makers who did such 
sound work with plane and gouge in the solid 
oak and walnut were busy enough throughout 
the eighteenth century. Those were the good 
old times in which, when a daughter was born to 
you, you went and chose the healthiest walnut 
or the finest cherry-tree on your domain, cut it 
down, and stored the wood. Then, fifteen or 
twenty years later, the seasoned timber was taken 
to the master-joiner of the market-town, who, 
sparing neither time nor material, made the 
nuptial bed and the great wardrobe for the bride's 
trousseau. 

Is our modern passion for these pieces of furni- 
ture, originally made for the lower middle classes 
and even the peasantry, and now used to adorn 
the most refined interiors, a totally irrational one, 
due to a mania for everything old, irrespective 
of its merits? By no means. Not only do they 
deserve their honours for the most part, by 
reason of their beauty of line and material, the 
soundness of their construction, and the fresh 
originality of their decoration, but it is certain 
that even at the period when they were made, 
no social prejudice banished them from the most 
elegant houses. 

Take, for instance, those modest seats made by 
turners in oak, cherry-wood, and sometimes 
walnut, and fitted with coloured straw, the so- 
called chairs a la capucine ; they still exist in 
France in great numbers, and authentic speci- 
mens are easily obtained by collectors. Such 



INTRODUCTION ix 

chairs would not be out of place in any house, 
whether in winter we fitted seats and backs with 
flat cushions of down or horsehair covered with 
linen, and even silk, or in summer allowed the 
gay colours of the straw to appear. We need 
only go through the gallery of eighteenth-century 
pictures or the La Caze Collection at the 
Louvre, to see that they figured in all houses, 
rich or poor. 

They appear, of course, in the genre pictures 
of popular interiors painted by Chardin, Jeaurat, 
and Greuze. But let us go up a step higher in 
the social hierarchy of the period. We all know 
the engraving by the younger Moreau called 
The Last Words of J.-j. Rousseau ; the dying 
philosopher makes Therese Levasseur open the 
window of his room (in the Marquis de Girardin's 
house at Ermenonville), that his last look may 
rest on that nature he had so often extolled. 
Well, Jean- Jacques is seated in a large straw arm- 
chair, and in the corner of the print, near the 
spinet, is another straw chair, on which the author 
of the Devin du Village had sat to play the instru- 
ment for the last time. 

It may be urged that the Citizen of Geneva 
always insisted that the borrowed abodes in 
which he successively housed his restless and 
uneasy spirit should be philosophically simple. 
This is true ; but let us turn to some scenes by 
Chardin, the actors in which are well-to-do 
members of the comfortable Parisian bourgeoisie : 
La bonne Education, La Mere laborieuse, Le 



X INTRODUCTION 

Neglige, or La toilette du Matin, La Serinette, 
the celebrated Benedicite, and many others ; in 
all we find these chairs a la capucine. The Uttle 
girl of the Benedicite is seated on a straw chair, so 
is the mother in La bonne Education ; the in- 
dustrious mother's chair is of straw, as is also 
that of the boy in the Tour de Cartes, who is 
very elegantly dressed, and that of the little girl 
in the Jeu de Voie ; the lady richly dressed in 
brocaded silk, who is training her canary in La 
Serinette, is comfortably installed in an arm-chair 
a la capucine with a wadded cover. ^ 

We may now look at a truly aristocratic 
interior, that of Madame du Deffand, whose 
room we know from an engraving by Cochin, as 
exact as a photograph. The huge arm-chair 
with down cushions in which the old Marquise 
spent the greater part of her days by the fireside 
was a simple straw seat, the woodwork of which 
was even a little rough. 

We may note finally in connexion with these 
simple straw chairs, that all the inventories of the 
eighteenth century mention them, even those of 
the royal household ; there were some, indeed — 
supreme distinction ! — in Madame de Pompa- 
dour's bedroom at Marly ; there were some at 
Versailles, and Lazare Duvaux sold them to his 
noblest customers.^ 

^ It may be interesting to note in passing that the straw seats 
Chardin painted, which were manufactured in Paris, were much 
more coarsely made than those reproduced in Figs. 83-86, which 
came from the south-west of France. 

* As we shall have occasion to mention Lazare Duvaux very 



INTRODUCTION xi 

And it is hardly a paradox to say that these 
simple pieces of eighteenth-century furniture, 
made for citizen or farnier, have often as much, 
or even more beauty than the most sumptuous 
examples of the same period. These, as we have 
said, sometimes sin by their excessive richness 
and splendour, their complicated decoration, the 
exaggerated restlessness of their convex surfaces 

often, we may say a few words here about this famous tradesman. 
He kept a shop in the Rue Saint-Honore, in the parish of Saint- 
Eustache, as a " merchant-mercer," and he also bore the title of 
" goldsmith-jeweller " to the King. The trade of a " merchant- 
mercer " seems to have been very comprehensive. Lazare 
Duvaux' stock ranged from commodes and bureaux to flat-irons 
and kitchen cord ; he sold chandeliers of gilded bronze and port- 
foUos ; plates and dishes and Chinese figures ; jewels and " oil 
of Venus " ; watering-pots, snufE-boxes, and a great many other 
things. He repaired furniture, clocks, and dog-collars, and 
among his constant customers were Mimi, a brown King Charles, 
and Ines, a red and white spaniel, Madame de Pompadour's 
pampered pets. In addition to the famous favourite, -w^hose 
town-houses, country-seats, and " hermitages " he furnished and 
loaded with curiosities, his customers included the King and 
Queen, the royal princesses, and all the princes of the blood ; the 
greatest members of the aristocracy ; the Dues d'Antin, de 
Beauvilhers, de Bouillon, etc. ; the great collectors, Blondel 
d'Azincourt, Caylus, Julienne, La Live de Jully ; the financial 
magnates : Grimod de la Reynidre and La PopeUniere, farmers- 
general ; Randon de Boisset, Receiver-General of finances ; 
theatrical celebrities, such as Jelyotte and Mile Lanoix, the 
dancer ; la Duchapt, milUner and procuress ; the good Madame 
Geoffrin, and many others. A most happy chance has" brought 
to light Lazare Duvaux' day-book, in which he made daily entries 
of his sales between the years 1748 and 1758. This day-book was 
pubUshed in 1873 by Louis Courajod, and is an inexhaustible 
mine of information as to furniture and artistic objects in the 
time of Louis XV. 



xii INTRODUCTION 

and sinuous lines ; these faults were the errors of 
artists free to spare no expense either in material 
or workmanship, or of very skilful craftsmen eager 
to show the extent of their technical mastery. 
They did violence sometimes to their material, 
and overstepped the narrow boundary-line that 
divides good and bad taste. But the joiner or 
cabinet-maker who had to make a commode at a 
moderate price was obliged to give it quiet lines 
and a sober decoration, simply because he was 
limited as to outlay, a limitation which by no 
means excluded breadth and grace of design. 
A very ordinary seat of this period, without any 
carving, is often a perfect feast for the eye, merely 
by the beauty of its lines and mouldings, and its 
harmony of silhouette, while at the same time it 
satisfies the mind by its fitness for the work it has 
to do. 

The Louis XV Style is perhaps the only style 
marked by this characteristic, for here carved 
ornament, when it exists, is, generally speaking, 
simply the expansion or, as it were, the blossom- 
ing of the mouldings, which are themselves 
merely the affirmation of the structural lines. 
Contour, mouldings, and carvings have a sort of 
-Organic^ unity which suggests that of a plant. 
The same cannot be said of a Louis XVI piece of 
furniture, in which the decoration is added to 
the line as if to mask the faults to which this later 
style was so prone : poverty and dryness. If we 
suppress the decoration there is no beauty left. 
But however much we may simplify a Louis XV 



INTRODUCTION xiii 

example in thought, it will remain admirable, 
like a branch stripped by winter of its flowers and 
leaves, if the artificer who fashioned it had a 
sense of harmony and proportion, and, above all, 
that subtle feeling, so rare in other periods, which 
this fortunate generation seems to have possessed 
instinctively, like the men of the fifteenth cen- 
tury : the sense of beautiful curves, at once firm 
and suave. 

So, in spite of the enormous rise in prices of 
all antiquities, more especially those of the 
eighteenth century, it is not essential to pour 
out money like water at the great sales in order 
to possess Louis XV furniture of genuine beauty. 
A person of taste may still make lucky pur- 
chases, even upon the pavements, where small 
dealers occasionally expose poor old arm-chairs 
en cabriolet to the ravages of the weather, the 
street Arab, and the wandering dog ; these, 
though their horsehair entrails may be protruding 
from a hundred wounds, sometimes arrest the 
passer-by and compel his admiration by the 
exquisite inflexion of a leg, or the nervous 
delicacy of a moulding. 

Such is the furniture, the charm of which, and 
the taste for which, we hope to suggest and to 
inspire in this little book. Our photographs will 
give some idea of it, in spite of the inevitable 
falsifications of the camera.^ 

^ We take occasion here to thank all those who have kindly- 
allowed us to reproduce the furniture in their possession or under 
their care. Among these are Mesdames Egan and de Flandreysy, 



xiv INTRODUCTION 

Many writers have described the famous cy- 
linder bureau in the Louvre made for Louis XV 
by Oeben and Riesener, the medal-cabinet made 
for him by Gaudreaux, now the pride of the 
Cabinet des Medailles, and the magnificent 
commodes by Caffieri and Cressent in the \\'allace 
Collection at Hertford House. These are cer- 
tainly masterpieces, but masterpieces of over- 
powering splendour, of less immediate interest to 
the majority of readers than those unpretending 
examples which have this advantage : they may 
be bought and even used. 

We propose to describe the various pieces of a 
set of Louis XV furniture, cupboards and side- 
boards, secretaries, commodes, tables, seats, and 
various other articles, after giving a summary 
sketch of the history of the style, pointing out its 
principal characteristics, and indicating the various 
techniques in favour at the period. We shall 
then make some suggestions for the furnishing 
and decoration of a town flat and a country 
house in the Louis XV Syle. 

'Mile Moutet, Messieurs Brunschvieg, C6r6sole and Briquet, 
DuchSnc, Labouret and Ladan Bockairy, Oriel and E. Bouzain, 
of Paris ; Mesdames Lefevre of Neuilly, and Ichon of Sevres ; 
Madame Meyniac, Messieurs Abel Jay and Broquisse, of Bor- 
deaux ; Mesdames Dumouliu, Lar6gnere, Messieurs Dagassan, 
Guillet-Dauban, Edouard Jay, Loreilhe, Pascaud, of Sainte-Foy- 
la-Grande (Gironde) ; M. Ducros, of Simondie (Dordogne) ; 
Madame Roudier, of La Riviere de Prat (Gironde), as well as the 
Directors of the Camavalet Museum and of the Museum of the 
Union centrale des Arts d6coratifs, of the Museon Arlaten of 
Aries, and of the Champenois Mus6e Ethnographique of 
Reims. 



PRINCIPAL AUTHORITIES 

Bayard, Emile : " Les styles Regence et Louis XV." Paris 

(n.d.). 
BiMONT : " Principe de I'Art du Tapissier." Paris, 1770. 
Champeaux, Alfred de : " Le Meuble " (Bibliotheque de 

rEnseignement des Beaux- Arts.) Paris (n.d.). 
Clouzot, Henri : " L'Ameublement fran9ais sous Louis XV." 

(Bibliotheque de I'Art decoratif.) Paris (n.d.). 
CouRAjoD, Louis : " Livre-journal de Lazare Duvaux." Paris, 

1873- 
Diderot: "Encyclopedic." Paris, 1751-1772. 
Havard, Henri : " Dictionnaire de rAmeublement et de la 

Decration." Paris (n.d.). 
Molinier, Emile : " Histoire generale des Arts appliques a 

I'industrie." Paris, 1896 (vol. iii). 
RouBO, A. G., jun. : " L'Art du menuisier." Paris, 1772 



CONTENTS 



CEAF. SAGS 

INTRODUCTION v 

PRINCIPAL AUTHORITIES xv 

I. HISTORICAL SKETCH I 

II. CHARACTERISTICS OF THE STYLE 21 

III. TECHNIQUE 44 

IV. PANELLED FURNITURE 63 

V. THE TABLE AND ITS DEVELOPMENTS 80 

VI. SEATS AND MISCELLANEOUS PIECES OF 

FURNITURE 92 

VII. A SET OF LOUIS XV FURNITURE no 

INDEX-GLOSSARY 127. 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

FIG. PLATE 

Secretary with adjustable inlaid front {period Louis XV) 

Frontispiece 

1,2. Oak Chamhranle and Corner Panel i 

3. Small Door Panels of Limewood 2 

4. Norman Oak Cupboard 3 

5. Walnut Clipboard made in the South-west 4 

6. Walnut Cupboard with Mouldings made in the South-west 5 

7. Provencal Walnut Cupboard 6 

8. Saintonge Cupboard of Walnut and Elm {end of the style) 7 
g. Provencal Under-cupboard used as Sideboard, Walnut \ g 

10. Saintonage Under-cupboard used as Sideboard {end of style) ) 

11. Breton Walnut Sideboard in Two Parts 9 

12. Provencal Walnut Kneading-trough {end of style) \ j^ 

13. Arlesian Walnut Credence-sideboard J 

14. Dresser made in Champagne {end of style) n 

15. Provencal Walnut Dresser for Pewter 12 

16. Provencal Oak Flour-box \ 

17. Provencal Walnut Bread-cupboard [ ^3 

18. Provencal Oak Salt-box I 

19. Rosewood Secretary-cupboard ^4 

20. Rocaille Commode of Coromandel Lacquer 15 

21. Rocaille Commode, veneered with Palisander \ j5 

22. Pyrenean Walnut Commode ) 

23. Small Commode, Rosewood and Palisander \ j- 

24. Commode, Roseivood and Palisander J 

25. Console, Commode, Walnut ] jg 

26. Console Commode, Mahogany) 

27. Gascon Commode, Cherrywood 1 jq 

28. Commode, made in La Gironde, Walnut] 

29. Bordeaux Commode-secretary , Mahogany \ 20 

30. Anjou Commode-secretary, Walnut i 

31. Large Bordeaux Secretary, Mahogany 21 

32. Table with Sunk Top, Mahogany ) ^^ 

33. Table painted Black, with Stucco Top 1 

34. Carued Table with Rim, Walnut {beginning of the style) \ 23 

35. Breton Table, Cherrywood J 



XX LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

FIG. PLATE 

36. Large Carved Mahogany Table 24 

37. Small Carved Table, Cherrywood {beginning oj the style) 25 

38. Rocaille Console Table, Oak \ 26 

39. Rocaille Console Table, Gilded Wood ) 

40. Small Console Table, Cul-de-lampe Form, Gilded Wood 27 

41. Toilet Table, Palisander and Rosewood \ 

42. Walnut Table with Chamfered Corners V 28 

43. Small Walnut Table for the Game of Tri ] 

44. Bureau Table, Palisander 29 

45. Small Bureau with Screen, Ash " Figure " 3° 

46. Small Bureau with Fall Front, Cherrywood \ _j 

47. Small Bureau with Fall Front, Palisander and Rosewood J 

48. Chijfonniere, Cherrywood ] 2 

49. Chiffonnidre Writing -table, Cherrywood J 

50. Small Walnut Table with Shelf ) 

51. Oak Night-table 3 

52. Large Arm-chair of Painted Wood tvith Aubusson Tapestry 34 

53. Walnut Arm-chair with High Back 

54. Arm-chair with Flower and Acanthus Ornament 

55. " Cabriolet " Chair, Walnut and Aubusson Tapestry 

56. Walnut Arm-chair {beginning of the style) 

57. Walnut Arm-chair with Low Back \ 

58. Small " Cabriolet " Chair, Walnut ) 

59. Walnut Chair, covered with Broche Silk] o 

60. Walnut Chair, covered with Brocade ) 

61. Chair of Gilded Wood "i 

62. Arm-chair of Gilded Wood ) 

63. " Cabriolet " Arm-chair ivith Mouldings \ 



) 



33 



35 
36 
37 



64. Arm-chair {end of syle) 

65. Walnut Chair ivith Simple Mouldings "\ 

66. Walnut Chair {end of style) J 

67. Large Arm-chair of Gilded Wood {end of style) 42 

68. Revolving Writing Chair 43 

69. Bergere with Carved Back, Gilded Wood 44 

70. " Gondola " Bergere, Walnut ] 

71. Bergere with Simple Mouldings, Walnut J 

72. " Gondola " Bergere, Walnut 46 

73. " Gondola " Bergere, Walnut \ 

74. " Gondola " Bergere, Walnut ) 

75. " Confessional " Bergere, Walnut 48 



45 



47 



} 



50 

52 

53 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS xxi 

FIG. PI^T^ 

76. BeecJiwood Chair with Caned Seat and Back \ „ 

77. Chair of Painted Wood with Caned Back and Seat I 

78. Beechwood Chair with Caned Back and Seat 

79. Beechwood Chair with Caned Back and Seat 

80. Toilet Chair with Padded Arm-rests, Walnut ] 

81. Toilet Chair without Padded Arm-rests, Beechwood j 

82. Walnut Chair with Straw Seat ] 

83. Straw Chair with Cushions J 

84. Cherrywood Chair with Straw Seat 

85. Walnut Arm-chair with Straw Seat 

86. Walnut Chair with Straw Seat 

87. Chaise Longue of Beechwood and Cane, with Side-pieces 

and Adjustable Foot 54 

88. Sofa of Gilded Wood 55 

89. Walnut-wood Sofa 5^ 

90. Walnut-wood Sofa 57 

91. Walnut-wood Sofa 5^ 

92. Provencal Bed, with Head and Foot, Beechwood 59 

93. Provencal Bed, with Head and Foot Cherrywood 60 

94. Screen with Shelves, Lacquer and India Paper 

95. Walnut Screen with Modern Tapestry 

96. Clock of Palisander Wood \ 62 

97. Clock of Oak and Pine J 

98. Mirror Frame of Gilded Wood \ ■ ^ 

99. Mirror Frame of Gilded Wood ) 

100. Mirror Frame of Gilded Wood \ , 

loi. Mirror Frame oj Gilded Wood J 



61 



CHAPTER I : HISTORICAL 
SKETCH 

It is scarcely necessary to say that the style with 
which we are concerned neither began nor ended 
with the reign of Louis XV. The traditional 
appellation of styles rarely corresponds with their 
incidence, and it would indeed be strange if the 
death of a king and the accession of his heir 
should modify the manner in which furniture 
is made. Further, it would be absurd to say such 
a style ended in such a year, and such another 
began. Styles have no strongly defined colours ; 
wide zones of half-tints with imperceptible 
gradations unite them one to the other. The 
transition from the Louis XV to the Louis XVI 
Style is fairly rapid, and the latter is a conscious 
reaction against the former ; but between the 
Louis XIV and the Regency Styles — if, indeed, 
we allow that there was a Regency Style — 
and, again, between the Regency and the 
Louis XV Styles there is no clearly defined line 
of demarcation ; each is but the culmination 
of Its predecessor's slow and unconscious evolu- 
tion. 

Louis XIV died in 1715 ; but though the 
disappearance of so strong a personality could not 
fail to be an important event in every domain, 
it is nevertheless true that in the arts, as in 
the world of manners and ideas and the field 

VII I A 



2 LOUIS XV FURNITURE 

of chronology, the new century had begun long 
before. 

In 1 71 5 Marivaux was twenty-seven years old, 
Montesquieu twenty-six, Voltaire twenty-one ; 
Lesage's Turcaret was produced in 1709, and the 
first two volumes of his Gil Bias appeared the 
same year ; for over twenty years Frenchmen had 
been reading Bayle's Dictionary, in which the 
universal character of French thought in the 
eighteenth century is fully manifested : it may 
be defined as a spirit of critical inquiry, contemp- 
tuous of tradition, and a hearty scorn of all things 
reputed intangible. In 171 5 Fontenelle was 
only half-way through his centenarian life, but he 
had long been at work, propagating his great new 
idea of the indefinite progress of humanity, while 
a new tone had been given to style — ^the very 
tone of Voltaire — by the sparkling irony of 
that most Gallic of Scots, Anthony Hamilton. 
" We had," said Diderot many years later, 
" contemporaries as far back as the reign of 
Louis XIV." 

Let us turn to the artists. "The Tyrant," Le 
Brun, had long been dead ; his art, which was 
Louis XIV art par excellence, had not survived 
him. Decorators, sculptors, and painters had 
lost the habit of working almost exclusively for 
the old King, who, ruined by his disastrous wars, 
and obliged to send all his magnificent plate to the 
Mint, had been unable to give them commissions 
towards the end. The world of finance, of the 
newly enriched commercial class, and of the 



"PIEDS DE BICHE" 3 

luxurious ladies of the Opera had become the chief 
patrons of the artist ; its tastes were very different. 
In painting, for instance, it preferred the Flemish 
Style to the Italian ; this was the revenge of the 
" Netherlandish monkeys " so disdainfully banished 
from Versailles by Louis XIV ; and vanquished 
Drawing beat a retreat before triumphant Colour. 
One great figure towers high above all his con- 
temporaries ; one that was to dominate French 
art until the time of David, the sad, the smiling, 
the exquisite figure of Antoine Watteau, who had 
but six years longer to live. Le Brun, Watteau. . . . 
what a long stage had been travelled between the 
two ! 

The same progress had been made in the 
furniture arts ; the elaboration 01 the Louis XV 
Style began, not even during the brief Regency of 
Philippe d'Orleans (1715-23), but in the middle 
of Louis XIV's reign. 

The mark by which we may almost infallibly 
recognize at a glance a piece of Louis XV furniture 
— a table or arm-chair, for instance — is the curving 
character of all the lines, and notably those legs 
with double inflections, like an elongated S, called 
fieds de hiche (doe's feet), because originally they 
terminated in the cleft foot of a ruminant, and 
from a distance their line suggests that of a stag's 
hind leg. These " doe's feet," which made their 
first appearance in the sixteenth century, became 
quite usual in the last half of the seventeenth, 
and we find them supporting pieces of furniture 
of the purest Louis XIV Style. As to arm-chairs, 



4 LOUIS XV FURNITURE 

their legs, their arms, the consoles which support 
these, the bands round their seats, and the summits 
of their backs began to curve long before the 
Regency. The elements that resisted the ten- 
dency longest — indeed, until about 1720 — were the 
quadrangular plan of the seat, and the rigid lines 
of the uprights of the back, but the evolution was 
complete, and before the actual reign of Louis 
the Well-Beloved began, the arm-chair had no 
longer a single straight line. 

To take another example : the passion for 
Chinese and Japanese objects, more especially 
porcelain, lacquer, and figured papers, would seem 
peculiar to this Regency and Louis XV period, 
when caprice and a taste for all that surprises 
and amuses the eye reigned supreme. But such 
was not the case ; innumerable chinoiseries were 
to be found at Versailles and Marly under 
Louis XIV, side by side with the majestic articles 
designed by Le Brun and the Marots ; all the inven- 
tories of the Crown furniture attest their presence. 
Everywhere there were screens and seats covered 
with " China satin printed with flowers, birds, 
and pagodas,^^ i.e. figures, or magots as they were 
called later. These "pagodas" were the rage; 
they were to be found in every house, and in 
every kind of material — china, lacquer, painted and 
gilded wood ; many had movable heads and arms, 
and ladies amused themselves by dressing them 
in Chinese stuffs. It seems almost incredible, 
but the inventory of 1673 includes 548 among 
the royal furniture. Besides, the King's dessert 



THE REGENCY STYLE 5 

was served in bowls of Chinese and Japanese 
porcelain, painted with figures. Private persoils, 
of course, followed this exalted example, and 
curious objects from the Far East abounded in the 
houses of Moliere and Le Notre, as in all the 
refined homes of this period the contents of which 
have been recorded. 

Examples of this kind might be multipHed. In^ 
the matter of styles nothing is more misleading than 
the exact delimitations formulated by theorizers 
after the event. They are false when applied to 
objects made in Paris, where fashions changed 
rapidly, and were followed by all who had any pre- 
tensions to elegance ; but they are still falser when 
the art and habits of the provinces are concerned. 

It is therefore impossible to date the beginning 
of the Louis XV Style, the more so because, if ever 
a sovereign lived whose influence on the art of his 
period was negligible, it was Louis the Well- 
Beloved, who showed little appreciation for any 
art save the culinary art ! What shall we say 
then of the Regency Style ? It is obvious that 
no distinctive style could be created, could de- 
velop, and disappear to make way for another in 
the space of eight years. The Regency Style (like 
the Directory Style) is an arbitrary invention of 
furniture dealers, auctioneers, and writers on the 
decorative arts. It is a convenient term of classi- 
fication for all that partakes alike of the Louis XIV 
and Louis XV Styles, of objects characterized by 
the solidity, dignity, richness, and symmetry 
proper to the earlier period, and yet showing 



6 LOUIS XV FURNITURE 

indications of the supple and facile grace of that 
immediately following it. We deal with the 
works of transition belonging to this category in 
another volume. But the Regency epoch is also 
that in which a perfectly new element made its 
appearance somewhat abruptly in French furni- 
ture : the Rocaille Style. It is inseparable from 
the Louis XV Style, or rather the two are but one. 
Pure Louis XV is Rocaille chastened and simplified ; 
we must therefore define it here, and say a few- 
words of the two great designers who, if they did 
not create it, at least gave it all its development. 
These were Oppenord and Meissonier. 

The contemporaries of the Regent Philippe of 
Orleans knew nothing of this term Rocaille, or 
rather they never applied it to that sinuous style 
they had seen developing before their eyes. What 
they meant by " a rocaille " was a fantastic struc- 
ture, a rustic bathroom on the ground floor of a 
country mansion, or an artificial grotto in a park, 
decorated with natural stones of irregular shape 
and curious colours, stalactites, madrepores, petri- 
factions, masks, and other ornaments made of 
shells stuck together. The most famous of these 
" rocailles,^' which had been in vogue some two 
hundred years at the time, were constructed by 
Bernard Palissy ; he made his of " carved and 
enamelled terra-cotta in the form of a rugged, 
irregular rock of various strange colours." The 
term rocaille was also applied to a rock, repre- 
sented in " its natural state " in bronze, plate, or 
china, and serving as a base for a clock or a centre- 



"ROCAILLE" 7 

piece for the table. The use of the word to 
denote the manner of Meissonier, Oppenord, 
and Slodtz dates only from the beginning of 
the nineteenth century, and is not particularly- 
happy. 

The essential characteristics of Rocaille are the 
inexhaustible and sometimes delirious fantasy of 
sinuous lines, the horror of all symmetry and of 
all vertical lines, and, finally, the excessive use of 
certain motives vvrhich the Louis XV Style retained, 
and which v^e shall describe in our next chapter : 
the bean, the shell, the cartouche twisted upon its 
axis, etc. It was the violent reaction of hasty artists 
against the severity of the Louis XIV Style : in 
decorative art it was a phase of folly comparable 
to that which was convulsing all French society at 
the same period, the agitation produced by Law's 
famous scheme. It may be called, perhaps, the 
juvenile Louis XV Style, sov^dng its wild oats at the 
age of youthful indiscretion. The Louis XV^ Style 
was an all too brief return of French art, freed from 
imitation of the antique and the Italians, to the 
true traditions of the race ; but its exaggeration, 
Rocaille, too often lacks qualities essentially French : 
restraint, balance, clarity, and reason. 

Further, though the precursor of this new style, 
Robert de Cotte, was a real French artist, the 
brother-in-law and successor of Mansart in the 
ofhce of First Architect,^ the two designers whose 

1 Robert de Cofi-p was the admirable decorator of the Hotel 
de la Vrilliere, now the Bank of France ; the Hotel de Soubise 
(National Archives) was the work of Germain Boffrand. 



8 LOUIS XV FURNITURE 

names have become, so to speak, synonyms for 
Rocaille, Gilles-Marie Oppenord and Juste- Aurele 
Meissonier, were not pure Frenchmen. Gilles- 
Marie was the son of one of the King's cabinet- 
makers, born in Holland, and Juste-Aurele was 
a Piedmontese. Both are celebrated for the 
numerous collections of engraved models they 
produced for architects, joiners, goldsmiths, 
founders, and chasers in bronze ; but in addition, 
Oppenord was Architect in Chief to the Regent, 
Director of the Manufactures of France, and 
Superintendent-General of the Royal Gardens ; 
Meissonier was a goldsmith and chaser, with the 
title of Architect-Designer to the Chamber and 
Cabinet of the King. There is a more architec- 
tural strain in the former, a residuum of grandeur 
even in the freest divagations of his fancy, which 
retains something of the Great Century (he was 
born in 1672) ; whereas the Turinese Meissonier, 
younger by twenty years, is inclined in his designs 
to treat all materials with the freedom proper to 
the goldsmith, accustomed to impose his caprices 
on finely tempered metals. He has an imagina- 
tion prodigious in its fertility, a truly Italian 
flexibility and facility, a great deal of intelligence 
in the creation of novel forms ; but also an ex- 
asperating fondness for complicated curves and 
counter-curves. After turning over the pages 
of one of his collections for a few minutes, one 
actually begins to like the Empire Style itself ! 

The greatest artist in the domain of furniture 
during the Regency, at least among the Rocail- 



CHARLES CRESSENT 9 

leurs, was Charles Cressent. Primarily a sculptor 
and worker in bronze, a pupil of Jean Charles 
Boulle, but completely emancipated from the tra- 
dition of the old master, he often drew inspira- 
tion from Robert de Cotte for his ornament, and 
from Gillot and Watteau for his figures, more 
especially for those graceful busts of women with 
wide collars — ^they were called espagnolettes — with 
which he was fond of ornamenting the tops of 
the legs of his bureaux-tables. Cabinet-making, 
strictly so-called, plays but a subordinate part in 
Cressent's furniture ; the ornaments of gilded 
bronze are all-pervading. They are, indeed, 
marvels of flexibility, and also of virile firmness 
and breadth ; the chasing is priceless, the gilding 
admirable. Here, terrific dragons revolve their 
scaly folds ; elsewhere, in a rocky framework, a 
rope-dancing monkey frolics on his cord between 
two monkey-musicians ; here again, a monkey 
balances himself on a swing pushed by two chil- 
dren. Here is Cressent's own description, for a sale 
catalogue, of one of his most sumptuous works, 
the famous commode wdth the dragons of the 
Wallace Collection : " A commode of agreeable 
outline in violet-wood, furnished with four 
drawers, and decorated with ornaments of gilded 
bronze ormolu. As regard the bronzes, this com- 
mode is a work of extraordinary richness ; among 
other pieces there is the bust of a v^-oman repre- 
senting a hasp or fastening, placed on the neutral 
portion* of the wood between the four drawers ; 
two dragons, whose upturned tails in high relief 



lo LOUIS XV FURNITURE 

serve for handles * ; the stalks of two large leaves, 
very beautiful in form, are also raised in high relief 
and serve for handles to the two lower drawers ; 
it may truly be said that this commode is a very 
curious piece." 

The artless pomposity of these lines perfectly 
suggests one of those pieces of furniture the 
beauty of which almost disappears under their 
excessive richness. 

While the Rocailleurs were thus boldly pursuing 
their fancy outside the regular line of evolution, the 
majority of Parisian artisans arrived unerringly at 
the Louis XV Style properly so-called, takingall that 
is best from Rocaille and leaving its exaggerations. 
The most notable quality they assimilated was 
its asymmetry, which was to reign triumphantly 
until the return of regular forms imitated more 
or less from the antique. 

During the first half of this interminable reign 
— it lasted sixty years — cabinet-makers accom- 
plished an immense task. They created for their 
voluptuous generation so many new kinds of furni- 
ture, and adapted them so perfectly to all possible 
uses, that they left nothing important to be in- 
vented by their successors ; they reached the 
utmost limits as regards perfection of manual 
technique and refinement of comfort. " I think," 
wrote Mercier in his liable an de Paris, ^ '^that our 

^ A great many Tableaux de Paris, or Descriptions de Paris, 
appeared at this time. It was a very fashionable genre. The 
authors of these works — Germain Brice, Dargenville, Piganiol 
de la Force, etc. — never fail to describe in detail the beautiful 



CHANGES OF FASHION ii 

furniture inventories would greatly astonish an 
ancient, should he revisit our w^orld. The lan- 
guage of auctioneers and valuers, w^ho know the 
names of all this immense collection of super- 
fluities, is a very delicate tongue, very rich, and 
quite unknown to the poor." 

The production of furniture was amazingly 
abundant. The clientele of the cabinet-makers 
extended day by day, the mania for fine furniture 
took possession of society, financiers and magis- 
trates, artists and great nobles alike, and all the 
provinces set up in rivalry with Paris. " Furni- 
ture," to quote Mercier again, " has become an 
object of the greatest luxury and expense ; every 
six years people change all their furniture, to 
possess all the most beautiful things that the 
elegance of the day has been able to imagine." 
And in a certain Dictionnatre critique, fittoresque, 
etc.y which appeared towards the end of the reign, 
we read : " All things pertaining to the use and 
adornment of a house are now objects of the 
greatest luxury and expense. . . . Passing the 
Hotel de Myrtal, I saw that it was being entirely 
stripped of its furniture, and noting the tapestries 
and pictures that were being carried out, I asked 
if Myrtal were dead, or if he were moving to 
another quarter. I was told that although he 
owns furniture of very great value, he does not 
consider it good enough, and that he is getting 
rid of everything now in his house, as rubbish fit 

furniture in the houses of which they write ; such furniture had 
become one of the curiosities of the capital. 



12 LOUIS XV FURNITURE 

only to dishonour it, in order to procure all that 
elegance has invented in the way of beautiful 
possessions." 

The industry of furniture was completely trans- 
formed to meet demands of this nature, or rather 
the art of furniture-making was " industrialized." 
Hitherto it had been customary to order the furni- 
ture required a long time in advance from a master 
cabinet-maker ; the customer gave him indica- 
tions ; he then furnished designs which were 
discussed with him. Henceforth the fashionable 
and the newly rich were in too great a hurry for 
such deliberations ; joiners and upholsterers set 
to work and produced series of ready-made objects 
with which they filled their shops, or which were 
bought from them by middlemen, " merchant- 
mercers " such as Lazare Duvaux. 

The old community of huchiers-menuisiers 
(literally " hutcher- joiners ") was transformed in 
1743. It had become too numerous, and was 
subdivided into two specialities, that of the me- 
nuisiers cf assemblage^ or makers of solid wooden 
furniture, and that of the menuisiers de placage et 
de marqueterie (veneerers and inlayers), who a few 
years later took the name of ebenistes, just at the 
moment when ebony, long unfashionable, fell 
completely into disfavour. 

Henry Havard, in his jnonumentsl Dictionnaire de 
VAmeublement, gives a list of the Parisian menuisiers- 
ebenistes admitted to mastership from the death 
of Louis XIV to that of his successor. There are 
no less than forty-five names, and the catalogue, 



THE CAFFIERI 13 

it must be remembered, is far from complete. But 
what are the greatest names of cabinet-making 
under Louis XV ? 

We have, first, two members of the illustrious 
lineage of Cafheri : Jacques, fifth son of Philippe 
the first, sculptor to Louis XIV, and Philippe the 
second, son of Jacques. They, like Cressent, and 
perhaps even more than he, were primarily workers 
in bronze, and their use of the metal was extrava- 
gant ; they bore successively the title : " Sculptor, 
Founder, and Chaser to the King." Their works 
are very much alike, they collaborated more than 
once, and it is often difficult to assign to each 
his own productions. The influence of Meissonier 
is very apparent in both ; they have more grace 
and fancy perhaps, but also less dignity than 
Cressent. Their pieces are widely dispersed, and 
hardly any specimens remain in France. 

Gaudreaux is known almost exclusively by the 
famous medal-cabinet with rams' heads in the 
Bibliotheque Nationale, a piece superb in execu- 
tion, but overloaded with bronzes, confused and 
illogical in composition, and on the whole un- 
worthy of his reputation. 

The king of Louis XV ehenistes was Jean 
Francois Oeben, the " King's Cabinet-maker." 
He was primarily an inlayer, and the bronzes for 
his furniture were executed by other artists, 
notably Philippe Cafheri the second. The finest 
pieces sold by Lazare Duvaux came from his work- 
shop. He died in 1765 probably, and his widow 
married Riesener, his " first journeyman," or, as 



14 LOUIS XV FURNITURE 

we shoiild say, foreman, who completed the im- 
portant work left unfinished by his master, the 
cylindrical Louis XV bureau, that unrivalled 
masterpiece of modern furniture. Oeben was 
the unquestioned master of the charming art of 
marquetry ; he commanded its supreme resources, 
but with perfect tact he never asked too much of 
it ; and those who presumed to compete with 
him, or even aspired to surpass him in this domain, 
only fell into the ridiculous extravagances of 
stained-wood marquetry. 

The principal customer of Lazare Duvaux, and 
consequently of Oeben, was not the King, but the 
Marquise de Pompadour, who, from the time of 
her " accession " in 1745 to her death in 1764, had 
innumerable houses to furnish : little hermitages 
like Brimborion ; mansions built or rearranged 
for her, like Crecy, Champs, and Bellevue ; a 
town-house at Versailles, a town-house at Fon- 
tainebleau, and, above all, the magnificent Hotel 
d'Evreux in Paris, besides suites of apartments at 
Versailles and at Marly. She therefore bought 
a great deal of furniture, and artistic objects of 
all kinds. But it was not merely by her perpetual 
commissions that she had a great influence on the 
decorative arts. They received a further stimulus 
by the nomination, which she suggested to the 
King, of her uncle by marriage, Lenormant de 
Tournehem, and later of her brother, created 
Marquis de Marigny, to the post of Director of 
the Royal Buildings, an office which was, in fact, a 
veritable superintendence of the fine arts. Much 



MADAME DE POMPADOUR 15 

must be forgiven to this woman, in view of the 
admirable manner in which she protected, sup- 
ported, and advised the best artists of her day. 
Her contemporaries recognized this and were 
duly grateful to her, as is shown by the Memoires 
Secrets of Bachaumont, who records her death on 
April 15, 1764, in the following terms : " This 
evening Madame de Pompadour died ; the dis- 
tinguished protection she afforded to men of 
letters, and her taste for the arts, make it impossible 
to pass over this sad event in silence." 

Madame de Pompadour, in spite of her humble 
beginnings as Mademoiselle Poisson, had exquisite 
taste, and what seems more surprising to many 
persons, her taste was comparatively severe, and 
made her prefer simple works, pure in line and 
perfect in execution, but without any florid 
magnificence. It is absurd to give the name of 
Pompadour Style to the most sinuous and florid 
specimens of Louis XV, for, on the contrary, 
Louis XV art unquestionably owes to her, in part, 
the extreme refinement and the return to sim- 
plicity which marks its final phase. Amusing her- 
self at times with the etching-needle, she was fond 
of reproducing antique intaglios ; she often asked 
the advice of the archaeologist and engraver 
Cochin, a great enemy of Rocaille, as we shall see ; 
of the Comte de Caylus, an enthusiast for the 
return of art to Grseco- Roman sources of inspira- 
tion ; of the architect Gabriel, the classical 
Gabriel of the Petit Trianon, the Ecole Militaire, 
and the Garde-Meuble (now the Ministry of 



i6 LOUIS XV FURNITURE 

Marine). When she sent her brother to travel 
in Italy, she gave him as mentor, Soufflot, the 
man who was to become the pedantic author of 
the Pantheon. It is an exaggeration to say, on 
the other hand, as is sometimes done, that the 
favourite was the promoter of the Louis XVI 
Style, but it is quite certain that she approved 
the return to the straight line and to antique 
ornament. 

An under-current of protest against the curved 
line and asymmetry had never ceased to make 
itself felt from the birth of Rocaille onwards in 
certain circles, especially among the " philoso- 
phers " and the archaeologists. The sons of Boulle 
imitated their father to the best of their ability, 
and their productions found many admirers. 
Blondel, one of the first architects of the period, 
who has left a very interesting work entitled De la 
Distribution des Maisons de Plaisance (lysj), 
apologizes for giving a few examples of non- 
symmetrical ornament, because some concession 
must be made to the fashion of the moment, and 
he does not fail to ridicule " the absurd jumbles 
of shells, dragons, reeds, palms, and plants." 
Another architect and designer, Brizeux, gives 
only rigorously symmetrical examples. In 1743 
the Due de Luynes could still write in his Me- 
moires, when recording the important fact that 
the Queen's bedroom had been decorated with a 
new set of summer hangings : " In the centre of 
each piece of tapestry there is a large vase, which 
gives a very fine effect ; but the ornaments ac- 



COCHIN'S CONSEILS 17 

companding it are all crooked, to suit the latest 
taste." Yet, in 1743, Rocaille had been in the 
ascendant for over twenty years ; the good Duke 
was a little behindhand ! In 1757 Montesquieu, 
in his Essay on Taste, pronounces a penetrating 
eulogy on symmetry, while admitting that it is 
not natural. 

But the most lively attack came in 1754 from 
the engraver Cochin, who was, as Nattier and 
others learned to their cost, a clever writer with 
a command of biting irony. He had published 
in the Mercure de France the Conseils dhin artiste 
'pour j aire observer certaines regies tres-sim-ples sur 
la Decoration. " Goldsmiths, chasers, and wood- 
carvers for apartments and others are humbly 
entreated by persons of good taste henceforward 
kindly to submit to certain laws dictated by 
reason. . . . When they have a candlestick to 
make, we beg them to make it straight, and not 
twisted as if some rogue had taken pleasure in 
spoiling it. We will not venture to find fault 
with the taste that obtains in the internal decora- 
tion of our buildings. We will not even ask for a 
little reticence in the use of palm-trees, which are 
cultivated in such profusion in apartments, on 
chimney-pieces, round mirrors, against walls, and 
in short everywhere ; to suppress these would be 
to deprive our decorators of their last resource ; 
but we may at least hope that when a thing mav 
be square without offence, they will refrain from 
torturing it ; and that when a pediment may 
legitimately be semicircular, they will not corrupt 

VII B 



i8 LOUIS XV FURNITURE 

it by those S-shaped contours which they seem to 
have borrowed from a writing-master." 

Gradually critics multiplied ; the philosophers, 
austere folks, in theory at least, and professional 
admirers of the ancients, waxed indignant against 
the so-called " corruption of taste " ; archaeolo- 
gical works appeared on every hand. Herculaneum 
and Pompeii (1755) emerged from their winding- 
sheet of ashes ; all the decorative art of the 
Romans came to light, and there was a universal 
enthusiasm for their seats, their beds, their tripods, 
and their candelabra. Revolutionary actors, such 
as Lekain and Mile Clairon, dared to cease repre- 
senting Greeks in powdered wigs and Roman 
matrons in panniers and high heels ; in short, 
antiquity triumphed all along the line. Our 
jidmirable Louis XV Style was not able to hold 
out long against such an onslaught ; architecture 
yielded first, long before painting and sculpture, 
and French art, after a brief span of emancipation, 
fell once more under the yoke of imitation.^ 

When did this great change in the style of 
furniture take place ? There is no hint of it in 
the Livre Journal for ten years of Lazare Duvaux 
(1748-58), which has come down to us. On the 
other hand, the first documents in which furniture 
'* in the Greek Style " (for so it was called) is 

^ It is curious to note that this reaction coincided with an 
ephemeral offensive return to Rocaille on the part of Boucher 
the younger, who produced some extraordinarily complicated 
designs for furniture, all crockets and bristling points, like the 
feathers of an angry cock. They are very ugly. (See, for 
example, certain consoles at Fontainebleau.) 



GRIMM ON STYLE 19 

mentioned are, according to Havard, the in- 
ventory of Madame de Pompadour's effects made 
in 1765, the year after her death, and an announce- 
ment of a sale of furniture at the Hotel de Com- 
bourg in the same year. But a curious page of 
Grimm, the friend of Diderot, shows that the 
first appearance of the new style was of earlier 
date. It was in 1763 that he wrote : " Eccen- 
tricity in ornaments, decorations, the designs and 
forms of jewels, had reached its crowning-point 
in France. . . . For some years past antique 
forms and ornaments have been in request ; taste 
has improved considerably in consequence, and 
the fashion has become so general that everything 
now is made in the Greek manner. The internal 
and external decoration of buildings, furniture, 
stuffs and jewels of every kind, all things in Paris, 
are Greek. The taste has passed from architec- 
ture into our milliners' shops. Our ladies dress 
their hair a la Grecque, our dandies would think 
it a disgrace to be seen with a snuff-box not in 
the Greek Style. . . . The jewels now made in 
Paris are in excellent taste, the forms beautiful, 
dignified, and agreeable, whereas ten or twelve 
years ago they were all arbitrary, eccentric, and 
absurd." 

Grimm exaggerates, no doubt ; but we gather 
from his text that the new taste manifested itself 
at first about the year 1753 in architecture and 
small objects, such as snuff-boxes and jewels, etc. ; 
and later in furniture. We may therefore say 
that approximately the Louis XVI Style was born 



20 LOUIS XV FURNITURE 

about 1760, fourteen years before the accession 
of the king whose name it bears. 

It need hardly be pointed out that the Louis XV 
Style did not disappear suddenly. The cabinet- 
makers of Paris continued for some time to make 
curvilinear furniture, as well as articles " in the 
Greek manner " ; they also produced hybrid 
objects, as happens in all periods of transition : 
tables with festoons and " doe's feet," but with 
fluted ornament ; arm-chairs with rectilinear legs, 
sheath or quiver shaped, but with curved arms, 
consoles curving inwards, and fiddle-shaped backs. 
They also carved classic ornaments on an arm- 
chair purely Louis XV in structure. A whole 
series of intermediate types may be found, just as 
between the Louis XIV and the Louis XV Styles. 
Stranger still, in vol. vii of the plates for the 
Ency dopes dia, published in 1769, we find among 
pieces in either style indifferently a wardrobe in 
two parts, of which the upper panels are decorated 
with the " diamond point " characteristic of the 
seventeenth century, and those below with purely 
Louis XVI rosettes. 

As to the provinces, they continued to produce 
Louis XV furniture throughout the century. I 
remember seeing a beautiful Provencal cupboard, 
pure Louis XV in style, which was dated 181 8. 



CHAPTER II: CHARACTER- 
ISTICS OF THE STYLE 

The Louis XV Style was "a return to the 
sense" of life and humanity." The phrase is 
Michelet's j it could not be bettered. If the 
architecture and furniture of the seventeenth 
century were superhuman in their dimensions, and 
in the heroic grandeur of their decorative motives, 
they were certainly inhuman in their lack of com- 
fort and intimacy. Those of the Louis XV period 
are pre-eminently human.^ Conceived in every 
detail with an eye to the amenity both of indi- 
vidual and social life, and reduced from the mania 
for size of the preceding generation to a scale 
proportionate to human stature, they seek inspira- 
tion from living nature in their lines and their 
decorative elements. When we enter a well- 
restored Louis XV interior we get a delightful 
impression of perfect adaptability to human needs ; 
and when we sink into a cosy hergere, the down 
cushions of which yield luxuriously to our weight, 
we exclaim involuntarily : " It is pleasant to live 
here ! " 

At the beginning, of the eighteenth century 
the "House underwent a radical transformation, 
due to a desire for comfort and for intimacy : the 
first reduced rooms to a more reasonable size, 
perfected methods of heating, and multiplied 
divisions ; the second brought about the separa- 

21 



22 LOUIS XV FURNITURE 

tion of that part of the house destined for social 
intercourse from that reserved for domestic 
privacy. Under Louis XIV houses consisted of 
long suites of immense rooms, communicating 
one with another, in which everything was 
sacrificed to splendour. In these people slept, 
ate, received visitors, danced, and worked ; they 
were entirely devoid of comfort, and the occupants 
shivered in them all through the winter. A few 
years later everything was changed ; the architect 
put twice as many rooms into the same space, and 
each had its special character. An advertisement 
of a flat to let in the time of Louis XV ran as 
follows : " An apartment of ten rooms consist- 
ing of an ante-room, a dining-room, a reception- 
room, a second reception-room adapted for winter 
use, a small library, a little sitting-room, bedrooms, 
and clothes-closets."^ Everything is complete; 
we have the modern flat, with a refinement we no 
longer possess : the reception-room for summer 
and the reception-room for winter. The bath- 
room is the one thing lacking ; but we must 
not conclude that it was always absent. Blondel, 
in his plans for " maisons de plaisance," or small 
country-houses, does not forget it, nor does he 
omit other conveniences, which he multiplies. 
He also introduces the dressing-room, a great 
novelty, which did not become general till the 
follo^ving century. Vv'e may note that even the 

^ Such an apartment, together -with a kitchen, pantry, bed- 
rooms for servants, stable and coach-house, was rented at from 
1 2 GO to 1500 livres a year. Happy days ! 



DECORATION IN 1775 23 

lift existed under the name of the " flying-chair " 
{chaise volante). 

'But the chief domestic characteristic of this ■ 
agreeable period, which showed such a lively taste \ 
' for social life unfettered by pomp and etiquette, 
was the multiplicity of the little rooms destined 
to conversation, play, and music. Beside the 
large drawing-room was a smaller reception- 
room, the salon de compagnie, a less imposing 
retreat ; the occupants played the harpsichord ; 
books of music, tambour-frames, and the fashion- 
able novels of the day lay about, and intimates 
were received here. Then there were the little 
room for retiring after meals, or coffee-cabinet ; the 
writing-cabinet, the boudoir, and others again. 
These rooms were sometimes very small, even in 
huge dwellings, as, for instance, Marie Antoinette's 
"little apartments " in the immensity of Versailles. 

Decoration was naturally transformed with 
architecture. " Before this period," wrote the 
architect Pierre Patte in 1775, " everything was 
concentrated on the exterior and on magnificence, 
and the art of lodging people comfortably and 
privately was unknown. xA.ll those agreeable 
arrangements which are admired in our modern 
mansions, all those conveniences which make our 
dwellings delightful and charming abodes, were 
only invented in our own days. This change in 
our interiors also brought about the substitution 
of all sorts of woodwork decorations, tasteful and 
infinitely varied, for the solemn ornament with 
which they were formerly loaded." 



24 LOUIS XV FURNITURE 

This was, in fact, the supreme change. The 
pompous walls, panelled with marble or coloured 
stucco, cold alike to eye and touch, disappeared, 
making way for polished or painted woodwork 
with panels enframed in delicate mouldings 
relieved with gilding, or for the painted papers 
of England or the Indies, unless, again, the walls 
were hung with the material used for curtains and 
furniture-covers, arranged in panels. Floors of 
stone or marble, so disagreeable to the feet, even 
when covered with a carpet, were superseded by 
parquet in " point de Hongrie " (herring-bone 
pattern), or " mosaic." Monumental fire-places, 
with huge chimney-pieces, disappeared ; they were 
made small and low, and the shelf supported a glass, 
a " parquet de glace," to use the expression in 
vogue at the period ; opposite the fire-place, over 
a console-table, another mirror was generally fixed, 
to increase the perspective and reflect the lights. 
Blondel also introduced fire-places surmounted 
with sheets of non-mercurial glass, which allowed 
one to enjoy a view of the landscape, with one's 
feet on the fire-dogs. Tapestries were used very 
much less, and paintings were relegated to fixed 
places, generally over the doors. 

Furniture also became smaller, better adapted 
to human proportions, and, above all, more com- 
fortable. Those pieces which are most frequently 
in contact with the body, seats and tables, were 
transformed first and most thoroughly, as was 
natural. 

Formerly, in a Louis XIV apartment, chairs 



LOUIS XV SEATS 25 

standing on high legs, with great square, straight 
backs, were ranged permanently along the walls. 
They seemed to be drawn up to do honour to the 
visitor rather than to invite him to rest ; the 
tables were so huge and so heavy that they looked 
as if fixed for ever in their places. When a visitor 
appeared it was necessary to summon two lackeys 
to bring forward a seat for him. Now, the large 
arm-chairs, which had to remain big and heavy 
that they might duly envelop and support the 
body, were supplemented by light chairs and 
" cabriolet " seats, easily handled and displaced 
to suit the exigencies of conversation ; the leg'^ 
became shorter, and also the backs, which had 
no longer to enframe the monumental wigs of by- 
gone days. For a group of two or three there 
were convenient sofas and ottomans ; for old 
persons and convalescents, the most perfect of 
easy-chairs, with desks for reading or writing, 
pockets, and spring-backs ; for tired or invalidish 
women, chaises-loiigues, duchesses^ and veilleuses. 
In the matter of seats the last word of comfort 
was said ; it was impossible to improve on them. 
Even those elastic springs which give such an ugly 
dome to the seats of modern arm-chairs were 
invented ; Louis XV's daughters had them in 
their hergeres. Madame Campan relates in her 
Memoires how, when one of them, Madame Louise., 
became a nun, she had feared that Madame 
Victoire might follow her sister's example. " The 
first time I saw this excellent princess," she writes, 
" I threw myself at her feet, I kissed her hand. 



26 LOUIS XV FURNITURE 

and asked her, with the self-confidence of youth, 
if she would leave us all as Madame Louise had 
done. She raised me from the ground, kissed me, 
and said, pointing to the hergere on springs in 
which she was reposing : ' Be easy, my child. 
I should never have the courage of Louise, I am 
too fond of the comforts of life. Here is an arm- 
chair that will be my ruin.' " Madame Victoire 
was a true child of her age ! 

The ingenuity of the joiners rivalled that of 
the upholsterers ; they invented an infinite 
variety of little tables, light and practical, for 
every conceivable purpose : work-tables, chiffon- 
niere- tables with little drawers, inn-tables^ with 
removable trays, for tea ; writing-tables, screen- 
tables to protect the owner from the heat of the 
fire, or to ward off the rays of the sun ; ten kinds 
of gaming-tables, toilet-tables, and a great many 
others. The chest, a most inconvenient recep- 
tacle, was replaced by the commode (chest of 
drawers), which so well deserves its name. The 
bookcase came into vogue, and the chiffonier set 
up its superposed drawers for trifles. If you had 
secrets, your roll-top bureau would hide them at 
the slightest alarm. Were you interested in rare 
shells, like the Marquis de Bonnac and the Presi- 
dente de Bandeville ? There was a shell-cabinet 
for you, " in the form of a bureau " where you 
could put your finest specimens in full view but 
in safety, precious examples such as the Scalata and 
the Pourpre, called the "Radix with black foliage." 
Had you a passion for flowers r A tabic with a 



LORIOT'S TABLE 27 

pierced top was invented in which to plant 
Dutch bulbs. 

The King, as is well known, was fond of little 
suppers, at which the presence of servants becomes 
irksome, and the Sieur Loriot invented a fiying- 
table for him, which was exhibited at the Louvre ; 
all the town came to see it. " M. Loriot," said 
the Mercure de France^ " has made a kind of magic 
table. WTien the company passes into the dining- 
room, not the smallest vestige of a table is visible ; 
all that is to be seen is a very smooth floor, in the 
centre of which is a rose. At a given signal the 
leaves disappear beneath the floor, and a table 
spread with a meal rises from the ground." At 
the end of each course the table disappeared into 
the basement, and came up again with fresh dishes. 
After this, invention could go no further ; the 
period was certainly that of convenient furniture 
par excellence. 

Thjs^style_ was also in. cloiex touch than any 
o.ther with nature and life, and more human, 
because more thaa any other it relied on the 
curved line. It emphasized this at all costs, 
sometimes to excess, as when it gave " doe's feet " 
to supports that had heavy weights above them., 
Such examples suggest caryatides bowed beneath 
their burden,^ but they have all the same air 
of organic things, of half-contracted muscles, of 
"streTigth, not inert but active, that characterize thfii— 
ribs and flying buttresses of Gothic vaults. The 
legs of a Louis XV arm-chair seem to be as elastic 

1 See the legs of the cupboards, Figs. 6, 8, etc. 



28 LOUIS XV FURNITURE 

as its seat ; we almost imagine that tJiey will bend 
beneath our weight when we sit down, and spring 
back again like the bough of a tree when we rise. 
The curve is, indeed, " the line of life par ex- 
cellence^'ioc^oie. Michelet again. The straight 
lifie does not exist in nature (even the marine 
horizon is a curve) ; it is merely a cold abstraction 
oF ouT'minds. The Greeks, who gave a slight 
inward curve to all the lines of their temples, 
knew this well. A straight line is neither graceful 
nor ungraceful, it is nothing at all ; straight lines 
intersecting one another are either ungraceful or 
uninteresting. The utmost one can say is that 
the eye finds a certain satisfaction in a rectangle 
(a window, for instance) when the sides have a 
happy proportion of length. But a curve may 
be in itself a marvel of grace, a pure delight to the 
eye. The men of the time of Madame de Para- 
bere and Madame de Pompadour felt this, and 
expressed it when they said simply : " a commode 
of an agreeable contour.'''' These voluptuaries 
certainly had the ideal of the feminine body always 
before their eyes, perhaps unconsciously. All 
their surfaces swell or curve inwards, every line 
is nervously arched, or inflected with a sort of 
languor, all the tangent curves seem to be ex- 
changing caresses ; everything, in short, lives. 
And when straight lines are inevitable, they are 
often interrupted,^ or their dryness is modified 
by the softness of the mouldings. 

^ As, for instance, in the uprights of the arched bay, Fig. i, 
which are made of ribs connected by acanthus-leaves, or in the 



CANDSCURVES 29 

The elementary curves from which all others 
are'derived are the C-curve (the arc of a circle or 
ellipse) and the spiral. They have been used in 
every style. There are Louis XIV tables and 
consoles the legs of which consist merely of C- 
curves, but of a short and sturdy kind, nearly 
always set in pairs, back to back, and clearly dis- 
tinct one from another. A Louis XIV fied de 
hiche is composed of a first salient curve termina- 
ting in a roll, and then of a re-entering curve, 
which begins in the same manner and terminates 
in the cleft hoof of the animal. The C's set back 
to back are also freely used in the Louis XV Style, 
but they are drawn out in long curves, which are 
more graceful, and, much more frequently than 
in the Louis XIV Style, it combines two successive 
and opposite C's in a continuous curve ; this forms 
the S-curve. The most complicated festoons and 
contours are combinations of C's and S's.^ 

This continual use of undulating lines presents 
a certain danger to the artist ; if he is not guided 

vertical members of the wardrobe, Fig. 4 (reeds bound together 
by ribbons). Notehowtheuprightsof the mirror-frame. Fig. loi, 
are interrupted. 

^ Examples : C-curves : the cartouche with an irregular 
outline surmounting the arched bay of Fig. i ; the mirrors. 
Figs. 97 and lor, etc. S-curves : the " doe's-foot " legs of 
tables. Figs. 33, 36, etc. 

C and S following one another : the legs of the secretary- 
commode. Fig. 30 ; of table. Fig. 37 ; of console. Fig. 40, etc. 

Two S's following one another, end to end : the pediments 
of the cupboards. Figs. 5, 6, etc. 

Two S's joined by an angle (accolade) : table. Fig. 42 ; chif- 
foniers, Figs. 48 and 49 ; arm-chair. Fig. 57, etc. 



30 LOUIS XV FURNITURE 

hy unerring taste, he easily becomes effeminate ^ ; 
but the cabinet-makers of the Louis XV period 
avoided it on the whole with conspicuous mastery, 
either by the introduction of short, straight, 
transitional lines in their curves, which give them 
greater emphasis, ^ or by delimitation of their 
component parts by the little spirals known as 
roquillards.^ Very often, too, a nervous mould- 
mg corrects an indecisive line, just as a very soft 
moulding modifies the dryness of a straight one. 

If the-JLouis-JCY Style dislikes everything recti- 
linear, it especially abhors rectangles, produced 
either by lines or plans. Rectangles are tolerated 
at the bottom of a cupboard door, of a wainscot- 
panel, or of a~Trame — in a word, there where an 
impression of strength and solidity is desirable ; 
at the top they are always replaced by united 
curves,* or concealed by an ornament.^ . As to 

A C between two S's : base of the salt-box. Fig. i6 ; of the 
commode, Fig. 25, etc. 

The same combined in a continuous curve : base of commode, 
Fig. 27, etc. 

More complicated and, generally speaking, less successful 
curves : salt-box. Fig. 16 ; bread-bin. Fig. 17 ; flour-bin, Fig. 18 ; 
base of commode, Fig. 20 ; ornaments of console, Fig. 39. 

^ Console, Fig. 39, and chair, Fig. 65, have not escaped this fault 

* Base of sideboard, Fig. 10 ; of commode. Fig. 28 ; sides of 
commodes. Figs. 25 and 26, etc. 

3 Bases of the cupboards, Figs. 6, 7, etc. These roquillards 
were naively exaggerated by the rustic joiners on the little 
Proven9al cooking utensils. Figs. 16, 17, and i8 ; and on the 
Pjnrenean commode. Fig. 22. 

* Woodwork panels. Figs, i and 2 ; cupboard doors, Figs. 4, 5,6. 
5 Upper angle of door-frame, Fig. i ; inner angles of mirror- 
frame. Fig. 100. 



THE RECTANGLE TABOOED 31 

arrises, they are rounded,^ chamfered,^ often made 
of lighter wood when the piece of furniture 
is veneered, or ornamented with a moulding of 
gilded bronze which softens their harshness while 
emphasizing and affirming the contour.^ 

Neither did interior angles find favour. The 
sensitive eye of the people of this period was 
disagreeably affected by the junction of the two 
walls of a room ; it was concealed either by 
rounded woodwork,* or by a piece of furniture 
designed to fit into the corner : a cupboard sur- 
mounted by shelves, a console, or even a seat. 
It was also considered necessary to avoid the 
angles formed by the wall and the sides of a com- 
mode or a cupboard. These sides were accord- 
ingly made with convex surfaces, and the piece of 
furniture was designed wider at the back than in 
the front. If this happened to be a commode, 
the form was very illogical, for a drawer must 
necessarily be of the same width throughout . 
and thus there were useless spaces on either 
side. 

To sum up, everything was rounded, not only 
all "That ~the"^ hand could encounter, but also, 
'in virtue of a certain confusion between touch 
and sight, even things that only the eye could 
reach. 

^ Cupboards, Figs. 5 and 7 ; sideboard, Fig. 1 1 ; commodes. 
Figs. 25 and 26, etc. 

* Secretary, Fig. 19 ; commode, Fig. 24 etc. 

' Commodes, Figs. 20, 21, and 23 ; bureau. Fig. 44, etc. 

* The narrow arched panel of Fig. 2 was made for this 
purpose. 



32 LOUIS XV FURNITURE 

Louis XV furniture has further, in common 
with the living being, the unity and continuity 
of parts. In a Louis XIII or Louis XVI arm- 
chair the legs, where they meet the seat, seem to 
end abruptly in a circular moulding or a cube, 
ornamented with rosettes ; the separation of the 
two elements is thus deliberately affirmed. On 
the other hand, in a Louis XV arm-chair the leg 
is a continuation of the seat, which is also con- 
tinued in the console of the arm ; the console 
'and the arm seem to be all in one, and the arm 
carries on the back just as a branch continues the 
trunk of a tree, or as a limb continues the trunk 
of an animal. 

This, indeed, is one of the dominant character- 
istics of the Louis XV Style ; it may be called 
" the principle of continuity." The eye glides 
along the flowing forms without a break. It 
seizes the whole intention at the first glance, 
which is certainly a merit ; but it must be con- 
fessed that this involves an infringement of the 
rights of the material, for, after all, wood is wood, 
and metal is a different thing ; an arm-chair or a 
chest of drawers ought not to look as if cast in one 
piece. There is an exaggeration of unity in 
certain commodes, the entire fronts of which are 
treated as if they were a solid block ; their bronze 
decorations, made, for instance, of long, supple 
bands of foliage, rising at intervals into bosses 
which serve as handles, are continuous, and take 
no apparent account of the division into drawers : 
looking at them from a distance of a few feet, we 



MOULDINGS 33 

might take them for pieces of stage furniture, not 
meant to be opened. 

In veneered furniture,^ it is the function of the 
applied sheets of mahogany or rosewood to hide 
the junctions ; in other furniture, especially seats, 
the mouldings provide the connections between 
the various parts, sometimes by continuity and 
identity, sometimes by carrying their development 
from one part to the other.^ Mouldings, indeed, 
as we have already pointed out, played a very 
important part in Louis XV furniture of solid 
wood. Many chairs have no other decorations,^ 
and in spite, or perhaps because of their sim- 
plicity, they are not the least pleasing examples. 
It may be said that here the principles of the 
style are carried to their extreme conclusion, and 
that it is seen in all its purity. There is more than 
a'^relation, there is a profound identity between 
construction and decoration ; it would be im- 
possible to divorce them. 

The treatment of mouldings is an admirable 
art, sober, difficult, and subtle. Thanks to the 
magic of light and shade playing among ex- 
crescences and hollows, lingering upon angles, 
gliding into gradations on heavy curves, it em- 
phasizes or attenuates, reinforces one part and 
makes another slighter ; it is both a modulation 
and a language. Delicate or vulgar, it may 

^ Commodes, Figs. 21, 23, 24 ; bureau, Fig. 44, etc. 
2 Arm-chairs, Figs. 52 to 58, etc. 

^ Arm-chair, Fig. 64 ; chair. Fig. 65 ; bergires, Figs. 70, 75. 
See also the cupboards, Figs. 6, 7. 

VII C 



34 LOUIS XV FURNITURE 

make two pieces of furniture, similar to the eye 
of the profane (and in this connection, many a 
cunning old dealer must be reckoned among the 
profane), so different, that one is a work of art 
and the other an object entirely without beauty. 
Happy the amateur truly worthy of the name 
who discerns and acquires the former at a moderate 
price ! 

And then these beautiful Louis XV mouldings, 
with their graceful inflections and richly swelling 
curves, have an essential merit : they cannot be 
imitated by vulgar mechanical processes ; indeed, 
the carvings of this style require so much material 
that cheap reproductions of them are impossible. 

The final principle of the Louis XV Style is the 
^asymmetry of its decoration.^ Of its decoration 
only^He it understood^for it never went so far as 
to produce an entire piece of furniture structurally 
asymmetric. . . . But I must not say never, for 
there are a few specimens of furniture entirely 
without symmetry, such as the famous Metternich 
bureau, doubtless by one of the Caffieri. It is 
surprising to find how easily artists threw off the 
ancient bondage of symmetry, which seemed so 
firmly established since the Renaissance. Was 
this the effect of the mania for the irregular objects 

^ Examples : Woodwork, Figs, i and 2 ; pediment of wardrobe, 
Fig. 4 ; door of bread-bin. Fig. 17 ; bronzes of commodes, Figs. 20, 
21, 23, and of the small bureau, Fig. 47 ; mouldings of commode. 
Fig. 28 ; band round table. Fig. 37 ; consoles, Figs. 38 and 39 ; 
front of arm-chair. Fig 57 ; ornaments of couch, Fig. 87 ; decora- 
tion of bed, Fig. 93 ; bronzes of clock. Fig. 96 ; mirrors. Figs. 98, 
99, loi. 



ASYMMETRIC DECORATION 35 

from China that obtained during the Regency, 
or merely an irresistible desire to do something 
that had not yet been done ? However this may 
be, irregular decoration took but a few years to 
establish itself in all the applied arts. It satisfied 
the general taste of the day for the unexpected, 
the piquant, the free, and the fantastic. It was 
also more " natural," though animals, flowers, and 
leaves are symmetrical. One of the follies of the 
day was the_ collection of strange shells, minerals, 
corals, madrepores, and petrifactions, a mass of 
objects of baroque form ; this undoubtedly had 
some influence on decoration. 

Asymmetric decoration, we must insist, by no 
means connotes loose and facile decoration ; far 
from it. There is nothing easier than to compose 
a symmetrical decoration, of a kind ; to count 
the squares, or fold a piece of paper in two, will 
suffice ; the completed motive will always have 
a certain effect from the mere fact that the two 
halves are alike. It is also very easy to compose a 
perfectly irregular decoration, regardless of the 
balance of the masses ; the bronze-workers of 
the Regency and of the Louis XV period have 
proved this.^ 

But what is really a difficult matter — and these 
same bronze-workers often accomplished it with 
triumphant success — is the ornament which, 

1 Examples : The pediment of cupboard, Fig. 4, an example 
of extreme confusion ; the traverse of consoles, Figs. 38 and 39 ; 
the rinceau * of commode. Fig. 20, which is quite formless and 
disfigures this fine piece of furniture. 



36 LOUIS XV FURNITURE 

though it has no symmetrical relation to an axis, 
balances equivalent masses. This exact equi- 
librium is a very delicate problem, but v^^hen it 
is solved, the ideal of ornament is achieved, for 
while the eye is amused by the variety and un- 
expectedness of the detail, the reason is satisfied 
in its desire for order by the balance of the 
parts. ^ This is a more subtle process than brutal 
and mechanical repetition ; and further, the 
principle of asymmetry has the happy conse- 
quence of leaving the hand of the sculptor or 
chaser much freer in its attack on w^ood or metal 
than when it is constantly restrained by the 
necessity of reproducing exactly a part of the 
work already executed. 

We must add that asymmetry is by no means 
an "invariable rule in this style. Many bronzes 
even are perfectly symmetrical.^ 

The Louis XV Style abandoned many motives 
used in the Louis XIV Style ; it modified others 
profoundly. Those it deliberately rejected were 
the elements borrowed from classical architec- 
ture. At no other period did decorative art so 

* Good examples of this well-considered asymmetrj' : the 
pierced ornament of table, Fig. 37 ; the leg of console, Fig. 40 ; 
the escutcheons of commodes. Figs. 21 and 27 ; the car\'ing of 
bed, Fig. 93 ; the asymmetric portion of the pediment on 
mirror, Fig. 98 ; and more especially the fine bronzes of regulator, 
Fig. 96. 

* Woodwork, Figs. 2 and 3 (left panel) ; sideboard. Fig. 9 ; secre- 
tary-commode. Fig. 29 ; tables. Figs. 34 and 36 ; bronzes of bureau, 
Fig. 44 ; and of chiffonier. Fig. 48 ; seats in general ; pediment of 
mirror. Fig. 98, as a whole. 



DECORATIVE MOTIVES 37 

far emancipate itself from the trammels of archi- 
tecture ; nay, more ; architecture itself at this 
period borrowed certain motives from the joiner 
and the goldsmith. 

But before enumerating the motives in use at 
this period, it must be recognized as a principle 
that they were never used in numbers, arranged 
in continuous rows of similar elements, an imi- 
tation of antique methods constantly adopted 
by the Louis XVI Style. In the Louis XV 
period a single motive was placed judiciously in 
the right place, or in the case of the bronzes of 
a piece of furniture, several motives were so ap- 
plied, and on all the rest of the surface, it was 
the material itself, either solid wood or veneer 
or the mouldings which gave the required 
interest.^ 

The Louis XIV scallop-shell ^ was profoundly 
modified ; it lost its regularity, and broke away 
from its axis ; it became jagged at the edges like 
an oyster-shell, or was even pierced ; generally 
speaking it was combined with the bean motive 
the origin of which is indicated by the name.' 
The floriated lozenge, which dates from the end 

^ Arm-chair, Fig. 67, which is decorated with a continuous 
series of interlacements, is a piece of transition furniture, already 
showing several characteristics of the Louis XVI Style. 

* Preserved intact on the left panel of Fig. 3 ; the frieze of table. 
Fig. 34 ; and screen, Fig. 94. 

• Woodwork, Fig. i ; cupboard Fig. 5 ; wardrobe base. Fig. 9 ; 
sideboard, Fig 13 ; table, Fig. 36 (here the shell forms a kind of 
concave cartouche) ; table, Fig. 37 ; console. Fig. 38 ; clock, Fig. 95 
(pierced'scallop-shells combined with rinceaux). 



38 LOUIS XV FURNITURE 

of the seventeenth century, was retained fairly 
often. ^ The cartouche, originally a card only 
partly unrolled, or turned over at the corners, on 
which coats of arms, emblems, and ornaments were 
painted, became itself an ornament, and was often 
used as a keyhole escutcheon ; it took on a peculiar 
form ; the contour swelled, and the motive be- 
came rather like a pear standing upright. ^ The 
acanthus-leaf, always very much used in wood- 
work, plays a more modest part in furniture ^ ; 
becoming small and insignificant, it ornaments 
the extremities of chair-legs and their backs at 
the junction with the arms.* More or less recog- 
nizable, it occasionally forms rinceaux * and rosettes 
on woodwork.^ The heavy twisted garland of 
the seventeenth century is unbound ; capricious 
sprays and tendrils, escaping from the mass, 
wander lightly over the background ; everywhere, 
in bouquets and baskets, singly or grouped in twos 
and threes, bloom roses, daisies, eglantine, narcissi, 
and again roses, those " roses d'Amathonte " 
which the courtly poets of the day loved to sing 

^ Tables, Figs. 34 and 37. 

^ Arm-chair, Fig. 52 (cartouche in a shell) ; herglre, Fig. 72 ; top 
of the clock, Fig. 96. At the springing of the legs of table, Fig. 37 ; 
and in the keyhole ornaments of commode. Fig. 20 ; and secre- 
tary, Fig. 29, it has still the Louis XIV form. 

3 Yet it should be noted in the legs of cupboard, Fig. 5 ; of 
tables. Figs. 34, 36, and 37 ; of chair, Fig. 60, etc. 

* Arm-chairs, Figs. 53, 54, etc. 

^ Woodwork, Fig. i ; cupboard. Fig. 5 ; commode, Fig. 26, etc. 
In the frieze at the top of the Breton sideboard. Fig. 1 1 , the rinceau 
has preserved a very archaic form, directly derived from the 
Middle Ages. 



DECORATIVE MOTIVES 39 

in their minor verses. The most modest arm- 
chairs en cabriolet cannot dispense with their 
" upright flower " at the top of the back, 
the springing of the legs, or on the front of 
the seat.^ Elsewhere, branches of laurel and 
olive, or of palm, are interlaced. ^ Whole palm- 
trees, often wreathed with flowers, are used 
more especially to enframe looking-glasses over 
fire-places. 

Animal life is rarely put under contribution, 
with the exception of the tender tribe of doves 
which are found everywhere in couples, pecking 
at each other and fluttering with outspread wings. 
The yieds de biche properly so-called become rare, 
and degenerate ^ ; but we meet with the irrever- 
ently named pieds de Jesuite, which are turkey- 
legs holding balls ; they support round tables, 
and were called after the Jesuit Fathers who, in 
the preceding century, brought the first turkeys 
{coqs d''Inde) from America. 

Then we have the vast family of attributes, and 
first of all, invading everything, those of the little 
archer-god, his bow and quiver, his blazing torch, 
and hearts in pairs, pierced, burning, or bound 

^ Woodwork, Figs, i and 2 ; cupboard, Fig. S ; sideboard, 
Fig. 10; kneading-trough, Fig. 12 ; secretary. Fig. 19 ; console, 
Fig. 38 ; arm-chairs. Figs. 53, 54, etc. ; bergeres, Figs. 69, 71, 73, 
74 ; sofas. Figs. 89, 90, gi ; beds. Figs. 92 and 93 ; clock, Fig. 97 ; 
frames, Figs. 98, 100, and loi. 

* Kneading-trough, Fig. 1 2 ; woodwork, Figs. 2 and 3 ; clock. 
Fig. 97- 

' Tables, Figs. 35, 37, and 50. The graceful return at the end 
of the legs of table, Fig. 43, is a last echo of the cloven hoof. 



40 LOUIS XV FURNITURE 

together.^ Next, the pastoral attributes, the 
crook, the bagpipes, the shady straw hat of the 
shepherdess, her wicker-basket for gathering straw- 
berries in the woods or flowers in the meadow, 
and the cage of the turtle-dove presented to her 
by Nemorin one day. Music also holds a con- 
siderable place: flageolet, bassoon, violin, guitar, 
and tambourine, all the instruments required to 
accompany an arietta by Mondonville or IMon- 
signy.2 Attributes of hunting and fishing, and 
even of science,^ find favour, but the stately and 
warlike trophies of Louis the Great are no longer 
in vogue ; Louis the Well-Beloved cares nothing 
for them. 

But this was not all ; the decorator at a loss 
for subjects found an inexhaustible supply in a 
little world of comic fantasy where he was the 
undisputed master : the world of the East, 
which the travellers Tavernier and Chardin 
brought into fashion, and that of China, which 
had already been the delight of two generations : 
mamamonchis in pumpkin-shaped turbans, fat 
dervishes and pashas, odalisques and sultanas. 
Van Loo was the master of the style, and decorated 
a marvellous cabinet in this manner for Madame 
de Pompadour at Belleville. But the vogue of 
China was still unrivalled, the gaily grimacing 
China of a painted screen, where poussahs, man- 
darins, and other figures jostle each other under 
fantastic kiosques. If we may believe Voltaire, 

^ Kneading-trough, Fig. 12. 
* Secretary, Fig. 19 ' Woodwork, Fig. 2. 



ORIENTAL INFLUENCES 41 

there was often an absurd amalgam of Turkey 
and China : 

J'ai vu ce salon magnifique 
Moiti6 turc et moitie chinois, 
Ou le gout moderne et I'antique 
Sans se nuire, ont suivi leurs lois. 

The man of the eighteenth century saw no very 
great distinction between a Chinese and a monkey; 
there is a very strong Hkeness between the Chinese 
cabinets of the day and the singeries (monkeyisms) 
or monkey-cabinets Hke those at Chantilly and 
the Hotel de Rohan. These fancies were the 
appropriate decoration of miniature retreats, re- 
ception cabinets, coffee-cabinets, writing-cabinets, 
etc., without which no great house was complete 
at this period. " As all these little apartments," 
says the worthy Blondel, " are destined for the 
relaxation of the mind, everything possible should 
be done to make the decoration playful and gallant. 
This is a domain in which genius may soar as on 
wings and yield to the vivacity of its caprices." 

It has been asserted more than once that 
the Louis XV Style owed the lack of symmetry of 
its ornamentation and the sinuous character of 
its borders to the influence of lacquers, porcelain, 
and printed papers imported from China. But it 
seems unnecessary to seek the sources of the most 
original of our styles so far afield. On the other 
hand, the theory that there was a determination 
to do the opposite of all that had been done in 
the preceding century is too simple an explana- 
tion. 



42 LOUIS XV FURNITURE 

For if we reflect a little we must admit that 
all the elements of the style were not, after all, 
such unheard of novelties in the history of French 
art. The love of the curved line, and notably 
the long S-shaped curves ; the principle of con- 
tinuity we have tried to define ; the strange like- 
ness of the thing made to a living thing ; the 
consummate skill in the treatment of mouldings ; 
the decoration which is so integral a part of the 
construction ; the profusion of light flowers 
and of serrated foliage ; and, finally, the complete 
disdain for the facile effects of symmetry are 
familiar to us. Were they not the essential 
characteristics of expiring Gothic, the flam- 
boyant style of the fifteenth century ? Think of 
the delicate shafts that spring so nervously from 
the ground, and, with no capitals to interrupt them, 
soar up to the intersecting arches of Gothic vaults ; 
think of the marvellous traceries of the windows 
at Les Andelys, in Saint Wulfran at Abbeville, 
in the Cathedral of Troyes, all in undulating 
curves which separate, rejoin, and separate again 
to melt one into another finally. Remember 
that the Middle Ages cared nothing at all for 
exact symmetry ; recall the capricious vegeta- 
tion that flourished in those ages on the stones 
of our churches, and say if the affinity between 
the two arts is not striking ? The Louis XV 
period (unconsciously indeed, for it cherished a 
fine contempt for Gothic art), when once it had 
shaken off the classic yoke, merely took up the 
old French tradition interrupted by the Italian 



MODERN TENDENCIES 43 

invasion of the sixteenth century ; it fastened 
by instinct on the exact point where our ancestors 
had stopped. 

Unhappily, a new crisis of antiquomania did 
not fail to come once more, and spoil everything 
for us. But are not the artists who are now 
attempting to give new life to the glorious art of 
French decoration, an art that has been languish- 
ing for a century, harking back in their turn to 
national resources r I speak of the elect among 
them, and not of the unintelligent plagiarists of 
Germanic art. Have they not, after the lapse 
of two centuries, the same sense of life, the same 
ardour for the harmonious curve, the same taste 
for delicate mouldings ? Do they not also seek 
for continuity of form ? 

To sum up, may we not say that there is nothing 
Chinese in the Louis XV Style, but that it may be 
bracketed with Gothic as the most French of our 
styles ? 



CHAPTER III: TECHNIQUE 

f Neither the joiners nor the cabinet-makers of 

N^the time of Louis XV invented any new technical 

methods, strictly speaking ; but they perfected 

several, and popularized others that had been 

little used before their time. 

A great deal of furniture of solid w^ood was still 
made ; in the provinces practically nothing else 
was produced, for veneerers and inlayers flourished 
only in the large towns. 

The native woods most in use continued to 
be : oak, especially in Normandy and Brittany ; 
walnut, which was very common in central and 
southern France ; wild cherry, of which seats, 
little tables, and secretaries were made ; beech, a 
wood that has no beauty, but is so solid that 
it is much prized for seats destined for hard 
service, such as dining-room chairs ; this humble 
material often acquires a charming light patina 
as a result of wear and of continual polishing. 
Elm sometimes has exquisitely marked knots, 
which are used in panels.^ 

Next in order was the large family of fruit- 
trees : cherry, an excellent wood with a very 

* These knots result from excrescences on the trunks of 
certain trees — wahiut, elm, olive, and ash, and are known as the 
" figure " or " flower " of wood. Their curving, undulating 
and interlaced veins are often very decorative. As such wood is 
scarce and difficult to work, it is now used only for veneering, but 
formerly it was often made into solid wardrobe panels. Bureau, 
Fig. 45, is of ash " figure." 

44 



EXOTIC WOODS 45 

fine grain, which was used for chairs, little 
tables, commodes, and even large cupboards — it 
carves well, and often takes on, in course of time, 
a superb tone of warm brown verging on red, 
while it polishes as well in use as the best walnut ; 
almond, which when rubbed over wdth vitriol, 
was a good imitation of rosewood ; palm, of a 
yellowish-brown, well veined, and with satiny 
reflections ; apricot ; pear, which is rarely met 
with otherwise than stained black, because of the 
poorness of its grain ; and finally, in the south, 
chestnut. 

Furniture made of the wood of fruit-trees was 
not always, as we might have supposed, of rustic 
or even of provincial origin. Lazare Duvaux 
provided plumwood secretaries and cherrywood 
tables for his refined customers, as well as furniture 
of mahogany and rosewood. 

Foreign woods, with the exception of ebony, 
had only been imported into the kingdom in 
very small quantities up to the eighteenth century, 
and so they were only used for very costly furni- 
ture. From the time of the Regency, but espe- 
cially from about 1725 onwards and during the 
prosperity of the East India Company, the 
enormous blocks of mahogany of which Haiti 
and Honduras sent whole shiploads, were seen 
more and more frequently stacked on the quays 
of Bordeaux, Havre, and the new port, Lorient. 
At Bordeaux particularly, this magnificent wood 
arrived in great quantities, and solid mahogany 
was freelv used in the south-west of France for 



46 LOUIS XV FURNITURE 

important pieces of furniture, and even for large 
cupboards, before the use of it was very general 
in Paris. But by the middle of the century it 
was possible to buy furniture made from this 
wood, which was soon to become so fashionable, 
for very moderate prices. On one occasion 
Lazare Duvaux delivered to Madame de Pompa- 
dour six commodes and a dozen writing-tables in 
solid mahogany, with ormolu gilt bronzes, in- 
voiced, the former at 128 livres each, and the 
latter at 5 2 livres ; and to M. de Belhombre " a 
business-bureau with drawers in solid mahogany, 
with a paper-case fixed to the bureau, the feet 
casings and escutcheons gilded with ormolu, 
covered vidth morocco, and a writing-desk with 
silvered ink-pots," was sold for 150 livres. 

The beauty and value of mahogany, as of all 
woods, varies very much in proportion to the 
beauty of the veining ; the varieties most esteemed 
are the " thorny," the " flaming," the " watered," 
and the "speckled." Some of these varieties are 
the most sumptuous material a joiner or a cabinet- 
maker can work on, by reason of the rich designs 
of their veining, the depth of their tone, the 
silky brilliance of certain parts contrasting with 
the non-lustrous darkness of others ; only the 
finest specimens of walnut " figure " can vie with 
them. 

Let us add to the praise of mahogany, that it 
is almost proof against the attacks of worms, that 
it will take the most exquisite polish, and receives 
varnish perfectly ; if it does not, like walnut. 



TURNED ORNAMENT 47 

box, or ebony, lend itself to a modelling soft and 
fused as that of bronze under the sculptor's tools, 
it is unrivalled for the sculpture of ornaments 
that are to be relieved in a precise and nervous 
fashion on a plain ground.^ 

As ebony had been almost completely abandoned 
— save for the manufacture of book-cases or the 
lower part of cupboards in the manner of Boulle, 
which certain amateurs of severe taste continued 
to prefer for their " curiosity cabinets," the only 
other " woods of the islands " or woods of the 
Indies, as they were also called, were satinwood, 
and amaranth, which were sometimes used to 
make small pieces of solid furniture, chiffoniers 
or screens. Amaranth is merely a variety of 
mahogany of a wine-red colour, or of a dark 
violet inclining to black. Cressent had brought 
this austere-looking wood into fashion, by associ- 
ating it with palisander. Satinwood (there is a 
red variety and a yellow variety) is very much 
like rosewood, though it is less lustrous, less 
shaded, and less warm in tone. 

As to turnery, which had enjoyed such general 
favour for a century and a half, it was no longer 
admissible for the refined furniture made in 
Paris or in the large provincial towns, with 
the exception of certain round tables or " tables 
in the English fashion " ; but this easy and 
expeditious process of ornamentation continued 
to be used for simple seats everywhere, to 
some extent, and for all sorts of furniture in 

* Commode, Fig. 26 ; table, Fig. 36. 



48 LOUIS XV FURNITURE 

many of the provinces, Britanny, Champagne, 
Provence, etc. 

As early as the middle of the nineteenth cen- 
tury the Dutch had been past masters in the art 
of veneering and inlaying wood ; and even in 
France, Andre Charles Boulle had practised 
marquetry with coloured woods ^ — and he 
was not the only worker in this genre — 
at the same time when he was producing his 
sumptuous harmonies with copper, pewter, and 
coloured varnishes on grounds of ebony and 
tortoise-shell. But it was impossible to get all 
the effect proper to the process, and make it 
fashionable, as long as the artificer coiild only 
dispose 9f quietly tinted native woods. True, he 
had hornbeam, chestnut, and holly for white, 
cherry and yew for red, certain walnuts for grey 
and others for brown, olive-wood and acacia for 
yellow ; but this made up a restricted palette, 
very subdued in comparison with that commanded 
by cabinet-makers at the beginning of the 
eighteenth century, when multi-coloured exotic 
woods began to arrive in large consignments. 
Amaranth, palisander, and violet-wood furnished 
a whole scale of purples ; calembour, green ebony, 
and lignum-vitae gave bright greens ; clairem- 
bourg, lemon-wood, and yellow sandalwood pro- 
vided yellows, bright, russet, or pale ; mahogany, 
Brazil wood, coralwood, caliatour, locust-tree, 
granadilla, and many others yielded red tints 

i A magnificent cupboard in the Louvre proves this. 



VENEER Gf MARQUETRY 49 

of every variety ; black ebony, anise-wood, jaca- 
randa, and Rhodes wood introduced blacks, greys, 
and whites. Others, striped, speckled, watered, 
marbled, marked with circles or concentric ovals, 
mingled the most varied tints. But the material 
which was deservedly appreciated above all others 
was the incomparable rosewood, which seems to 
combine all the most beautiful colours of autumn 
in its warm russet tones shaded with gold and 
purplish-brown ; rosewood, that precious material 
which mellows so finely with age, and harmonizes 
so exquisitely with dark palisander. 

It is not within our province to describe the 
technical processes of veneer and marquetry. It 
will be enough to say that they were more difficult 
to execute perfectly in the Louis XV period than 
at any other time, because then the thin and 
brittle sheets of wood had to be applied to surfaces 
that undulated in every direction. 

During this period, the word marquetry was 
hardly ever used in the modern sense. The En- 
cyclopcsdia defines it thus : " The art of applying 
carefully and delicately wood, metals, glass, and 
precious stones of different colours in plaques, 
bands, and compartments to other materials of a 
commoner kind, in order to produce furniture, 
jewels, and articles for the embellishment of 
interiors." Thus, the simple veneering of wood 
without any design, was one variety of marquetry, 
and a mosaic of precious stones or glass was 
another. As to furniture ornamented with 
lozenges, imbricated scales, mtceaux, or flowers in 

VII D 



50 LOUIS XV FURNITURE 

woods of various colours, they were described as 
" pieces of furniture veneered in compartments," 
or " veneered with a mosaic of different Indian 
woods," or " veneered with flowers," or simply 
" furniture of woods pieced together." 

Sometimes only panels were veneered or inlaid, 
sometimes, and this more frequently, the whole 
surface of the piece of furniture was adorned in 
this brilliant fashion.^ The most usual methods 
of treating the sheets of wood were the following : 
when the cabinet-maker had procured a piece of 
walnut-wood " figure " of considerable size, or a 
piece of finely grained mahogany, he cut it into 
thin sheets, with which he sometimes covered 
whole panels. But this practice, so frequent at 
the end of the century and the beginning of 
the next, was rarely adopted under Louis XV. 
Sometimes a panel was veneered with two or four 
sheets taken from the same piece of wood, which, 
if the veins were well-marked, enabled the artist 
to compose a very decorative symmetrical motive 
with two or three axes, whereas, if he had only 
narrow sheets with parallel veins (as, for instance, 
in rosewood), he arranged them in chevrons ; 
this was known as -point de Hongrie or " herring- 
bone " veneer, or sometimes as " fern-leaf " ; a 
panel of this kind in rosewood, either rectilinear 
or curved, was often enframed in a band of pali- 
sander, a thin fillet of lemon- wood or holly being 
inserted between the two woods to emphasize the 

^ Secretary, Fig. ig ; commodes, Figs^ 21, 23, 2^ ; bureaux, 
Figs. 44 and 47 ; dressing-table. Fig. 41 ; clock, Fig. 96. 



INLAYING 51 

contrast.^ Or a panel of lemon- or satin-wood 
was outlined with a black fillet (sometimes of 
whalebone, the flexibility of which made it easy 
to follow all the sinuosities of the contour), and 
enframed in mahogany, amaranth, or palisander. 
In general, the bands enframing the drawers of a 
commode or chiffonier were emphasized by a little 
quadrantal moulding of the same wood as the 
compartments of the panels ; the lateral arrises 
of the piece of furniture were chamfered, and the 
chamfers were veneered with the same wood.^ 
Sometimes, again, thin slips of wood were 
arranged in stars, the rays starting from the top, 
the bottom, or the angle of the panel ; a kind of 
rosette was formed with small oval plates, with 
finely marked concentric veins, furnished by 
branches of wild cherry- or violet-wood sawed 
obliquely ; a panel was covered with geometrical 
motives ^ : lozenges, checkers, cubes simulated by 
a combination of squares and parallelograms, 
either by setting the grain of similar pieces of wood 
in different directions, or by using two or three 
different kinds of wood. 

But the triumph of the inlayers was achieved 
in a combination of rococo ornaments with 
bouquets of flowers in vases or baskets, trophies 

^ The little commode. Fig. 24 (of palisander \Wth panels of 
rosewood and fillets of lemon-wood), shows a combination of 
the two processes ; point de Hongrie in the middle drawer, and 
in the lower drawer a symmetrical motive obtained by arrange- 
ment of four sheets taken from the same piece of wood. 

2 Secretary, Fig. 19 ; commode, Fig. 23 

' F)ureau, Fig. 47. 



52 LOUIS XV FURNITURE 

of scientific or musical instruments/ crooks and 
bagpipes, amorous attributes, and finally — the 
crowning consummation — groups of figures in the 
taste of Boucher. These were veritable pictures, 
for which artists finally could not rest contented 
with the eighty or a hundred different kinds of 
woods they possessed ; they adopted such expe- 
dients as plunging the pieces of light-coloured 
woods for veneer vertically into very hot sand, 
and drawing them out slowly, to give them 
brownish gradations, darkening them with vitrol, 
or graving them with hot irons ; finally, as was 
inevitable, they were seduced into the detest- 
able practice of dyeing white woods blue, green, 
and pink. Of course, the colours soon faded, 
their relations were modified, and these dyed 
marquetries lost all their harmony. 

Certain simple pieces of furniture were made 
of common woods dyed a uniform tint — that is to 
say, coloured by means of immersion in a dye that 
penetrated more or less deeply into the texture. 
Such were the pieces in " reddened and polished 
woods," screens, night-tables, writing-tables, and 
those in blackened pearwood, which are much less 
frequent, owing to their lack of cheerfulness. 

Painted furniture, made to harmonize more 
perfectly with coloured woodwork, or the fresh 
colours of summer hangings, was much more 
popular. This, again, was by no means an inno- 
vation ; nearly all mediaeval and Renaissance 
furniture was painted and relieved with gold, as 

^ Secretary, Fig. 19. 



PAINTED FURNITURE 53 

was also a good deal of Louis XIV furniture. 
The things that were painted more especially 
were the pieces that were generally speaking 
fixtures, such as corner-panels or cupboards, 
and the bases of wardrobes and consoles ; also 
little " fancy " pieces, as we have said above, 
toilet-tables, wTriting-tables, and screens ; and 
notably, seats ; commodes and wardrobes were 
rarely painted. A great many pieces of furniture 
were painted at a later date, towards the end of 
the eighteenth century, when there was a mania 
for light colours ; others received a hideous black 
livery, with or without gold fillets, in the nine- 
teenth century.^ 

With a little practice and attention, we may 
distinguish the seats which were intended to be 
painted from those the wood of which was meant 
to remain visible ; in the former the mouldings 
and projecting carvings are narrower, more 
sharply defined, and the depressions and inter- 
stices are more strongly emphasized, for otherwise 
all the detail would have been blurred by coats of 
paint. At the present day antiquaries abuse the 
processes of scraping and " pickling " ; tliey reduce 
many seats which were always painted from the be- 
ginning, to the most disastrous nudity, merely for 
the sake of using old shreds of tapestry which would 
not harmonize with light-coloured woodwork, and 
which were never intended for covering arm-chairs. 

o 

1 There were, indeed, black tables with gold fillets in the time 
of Louis XV ; such, for instance, is the very pretty table with a 
top of coloured stucco reproduced in Fig. 33. 



54 LOUIS XV FURNITURE 

The paint was sometimes " flatted," and some- 
times varnished or, as we should say now, lac- 
quered. Furniture lacquered smooth (which must 
not be confounded with that in which the lac- 
quered reliefs were imitated from Chinese models) 
dates, if we may trust Barbier's Journal^ from 
about 1750 ; the first specimens were made for the 
Prince de Soubise's " Folly " at Saint-Ouen ; a visit 
paid by the King to this little pleasure-house, and 
his delight in the fresh and cheerful appearance 
of the furniture was the origin of its popularity. 
It was generally r^VZ^^^w^/ — that is, " picked out " 
— the groundwork being of a lighter or more 
neutral tint, and the mouldings or carvings 
strong in colour : white was picked out with 
green or blue, pale yellow with gold, etc.^ 

We must not be deceived by the repainting of 
the following period ; under Louis XV decorators 
were not in the least afraid of the most vivid 
colours ; Lazare Duvaux {Livre Journal) notes 
many red toilet-tables with black fillets, corner- 
shelves lacquered green and gold, jonquil and 
gold, "green, red, and polished gold." We must 
imagine this highly coloured furniture in rooms 
with damask hangings, generally of purple-red, 
golden yellow, or bright green, and banish once 
and for all the idea that the Louis XV Style was 
insipid and its colour-schemes those of the 
bonbon-box. 

Other paintings were more complicated. 
Lazare Duvaux sold to the King " pierced corner- 

^ Arm-chair, Fig. 52 ; chair. Fig. 77, etc. 



ORIENTAL LACQUERS S5 

shelves with cupboards in the middle, in polished 
lacquer imitating veneer," and to the Dowager 
Princesse de Rohan " a corner-cupboard with 
doe's-foot legs in white lacquer, painted in the 
Indian taste — that is to say, with Chinese sub- 
jects." On the celadon green, grey, or cream 
ground of certain seats flowers were painted from 
nature in very brilliant colours ; and this brings 
us to " Vernis-Martin." 

At the close of the Louis XIV period amateurs 
were roused to enthusiasm by the beauty and 
decorative value of the lacquers imported by the 
Dutch from the Far East ; it was then the practice 
began of enframing in pieces of furniture designed 
for this purpose lacquered panels which their 
Chinese and Japanese creators had destined for 
very different uses. But when the Regency and 
Louis XV Styles set in, when protuberant com- 
modes, and corner-cupboards with curved fronts 
were multiplied, it was no longer possible to use 
the flat panels of the Chinese. It then became 
customary to send ready-made drawer-fronts and 
door-panels to China, where the artists of the 
Celestial Empire decorated them with their 
exquisite works, just as the dandies sent their 
silk waistcoats to Japan to be embroidered, after 
having them made up at home. We may imagine 
the expense and delay entailed by such a proceed- 
ing. The lacquers thus obtained were generally 
black with gold reliefs, or Coromandel lacquers 
(flat lacquers of many tints, admirably harmonized, 
in which the different hues are separated by a kind 



56 LOUIS XV FURNITURE 

of cloisons or ridges " left " in the wood ; the 
process is closely akin to champleve enamel) ; or, 
again, sometimes red lacquers. 

It was natural that the French cabinet-makers 
should have cast about for some means of escap- 
ing from such difficulties. As early as l66o, 
native " painter- varnishers " attempted to imitate 
the foreign enamels. When Louis XIV died, a 
certain Dagly had a workshop in the Gobelins 
factory itself, where he made " lacquers in the 
Chinese manner." The Sieur Le Roy and the 
Langlois, father and son, competed with him, 
painting " all sorts of furniture in Chinese 
lacquer." But they were soon to be eclipsed by 
the four brothers Martin, who in 1748 founded a 
" Royal Manufactory " of lacquers in the Chinese 
manner. At first they made copies of Chinese 
lacquers with gold reliefs on a black ground, by 
a process which they kept jealously secret ; later, 
extending their process, they painted from nature, 
under transparent varnishes, fruits, flowers, and 
ornaments on yellow, emerald green, lapis lazuli, 
blue, and brownish gold-flecked grounds ; finally 
they even produced complicated pictures, mytho- 
logical allegories and rustic scenes, enframed in 
garlands of flowers. 

The success of the Martins was extraordinary ; 
every sort of object was given them to lacquer, 
from snuff-boxes, shuttles, and fans to spinets, 
sedan-chairs, coaches, and even whole suites of 
rooms. The Dauphin's apartments, one of the 
marvels of Versailles, was panelled and floored 



VERNIS-MARTIN 57 

throughout with marquetry by Boulle ; this 
unique work was unhesitatingly destroyed and 
replaced by white wood with carvings lacquered 
by the Martins.^ These famous lacquers soon 
became the symbol of the most refined luxury ; 
Voltaire quotes 

. . . ces cabinets oil Martin 
A surpasse I'art de la Chine 

as the supreme expression of magnificence. 

The French lacquers were very inferior to the 
Chinese in the matter of solidity ; the majority 
have perished, others have greatly deteriorated. 
As may be supposed, those which have survived 
and have not been too much repainted fetch 
enormous prices at sales. To see really fine 
specimens, the curious should go to the Musee 
Carnavalet, where there are two charming corner- 
fittings, in the exquisite little Chinese cabinet ; 
to the Musee de Cluny, which has a very fine 
coach decorated in this manner ; to Fontaine- 
bleau, where there are two commodes with two 
drawers on high legs, by the Martins themselves ; 
and, above all, to Potsdam and Sans-Souci, where 
are some little rooms which still retain the decora- 
tion made for Frederick II. 

I may say a word or two here as to furniture of 
gilded wood. Though less popular than in the 
time of Louis XIV, it was still fairly frequent in 

^ This decoration disappeared in its turn under a hideous 
coat of colour-wash which has recently been removed ; the 
carvings are now left in the plain wood. 



58 LOUIS XV FURNITURE 

sumptuous houses. Console-tables were gilded 
to harmonize with the gilt ornaments of the 
mirrors above them (Figs. 39, 40) ; the wood of 
seats was also gilded (Figs. 61, 62, 67, 88). The 
process remained unchanged ; it was either oil- 
gilding, done by laying leaf-gold on a ground of 
colour-gold, a greasy, viscous deposit which forms 
at the bottom of painters' cans ; or distemper- 
gilding, in which the gold-leaf was applied to a 
plaster of whitening and glue. Sometimes, again, 
the wood was silvered, like that of Frederick IPs 
famous chairs ; and more rarely it was bronzed. 

We may now pass rapidly in review what may 
be called the accessories of furniture, made in 
materials other than wood. 

First of all, bronzes, which in certain costly 
pieces of furniture of this period are rather 
principals than accessories, and play at least an 
important decorative part in all panelled furni- 
ture and in all elaborate tables. Bronzes coming 
from good workshops were entirely worked over 
with the chaser and the burin after casting, and 
then gilded with or moulu — that is to say, gold with 
a mixture of mercury. If the piece of furniture 
was of the more modest kind, or even if its maker 
was a person of sober taste, all, or nearly all, of the 
bronzes had their practical uses. In a chest of 
drawers, for instance, the handles, either fixed or 
hanging, were of gilded bronze, as were also the 
escutcheons necessary to prevent the key from 
injuring the wood ^ and the casings (chaussons or 

^ The commode. Fig. 20, has only one ornamental escutcheon. 



BRONZE ORNAMENTS 59 

sabots)^ which ensure the solidity of the feet. All 
the arrises of a piece of furniture are sometimes 
encased in a fine fillet of metal ; this was very 
useful to protect this weak portion of veneered 
furniture, which is so liable to be damaged. 
Only the ornament under the angles of the top 
and the rinceau at the base of the front, or apron, 
are purely ornamental.^ 

A bureau-table (Fig. 44) has in like manner metal 
casings on the feet, escutcheons, fillets on the arrises 
of the legs, and ornaments at the tops of them, a 
quadrantal moulding protecting the edge of the 
table from the rude shocks to which it is exposed ; 
the rounded corners of this table are reinforced 
by hooks, pieces of metal which unite the drop 
to the quadrantal moulding, and give the 
corners of the piece a look of strength which is 
very effective. There was always more of logic 
than of fancy in the ornamentation of a fine old 
piece of furniture. 

Materials other than wood were used very often 
for the tops of tables, generally for those of com- 
modes, unless they were of the simplest kind, 
and always for those of consoles and bureaux. 
Writing-tables and bureaux were given a facing 
that could be replaced if disfigured by ink- 
stains ; this was either of morocco leather or, 
in the case of dainty feminine writing-tables, 

because the Chinese lacquerer had placed one of his figures in 
the middle of the drawer ; the plain keyhole even had to be 
placed a little on one side. 
1 Commodes, Figs. 20, 21, 23. 



6o LOUIS XV FURNITURE 

of blue velvet. Consoles, commodes, night-tables, 
and other varieties of tables liable to be wetted, 
had marble tops. The marbles used, which often 
added a superb note of colour to a piece of furni- 
ture, were almost as varied as the woods. Side by 
side with the humble grey and the modest white 
marble, we have turquoise-blue, Egyptian-green, 
Carrara marble, which is red, pink, and green ; 
Italian griotU, red and brown ; antin, which is 
streaked with red, grey, and violet ; Aleppo 
breccia, formed of sharply defined grey, black, 
and yellow pebbles bound together by a brown 
cement ; brocaU, a marble with the surface of 
a flowery brocade ; portor, the most precious of 
all, with white and grey veinings on a fine black 
ground, splashed all over with golden orange- 
yellow ; and a hundred other varieties, to say 
nothing of onyx and alabaster for small and very 
dainty pieces of furniture. 

Some costly tables, especially those which 
adorned the curiosity-cabinets of collectors, were 
still, as in the seventeenth century, covered with 
mosaics of selected stones or, as they used also to 
be called, specimen marbles. Cheap imitations 
of these were made in stucco, a mixture of 
powdered marble, plaster, glue, and alum. A 
certain specialist, the Sieur Grisel, advertised in 
the Mercure de France that he had discovered a 
composition which " imitates all marbles, even 
the rarest and most precious, so perfectly as to 
deceive connoisseurs, and possesses the veinings and 
streaks, the cold, the feeling, and the poHshof real 



MIRRORS IN FURNITURE 6i 

marble." Indeed, these imitations are often 
surprisingly excellent, and tables " of the marble 
kind " had their passing vogue. ^ 

Does this complete the tale ? Not altogether, 
for the cabinet-makers of the Louis XV period 
further initiated the practice of pressing china — 
that new material about which the fashionable 
world was crazy at the time — into their service, 
and using it to enrich their small pieces of furni- 
ture. They made the tops of little round tables 
with it, and inlaid mahogany panels with medal- 
lions of fine procelain ; the cabinet-maker 
Migeon, who distinguished himself in this kind of 
work, received a pension of looo livres a year 
from Madame de Pompadour. 

They, too, were the first to set mirrors into 
their secretaries and bureaux for ladies (of the 
kind known as bonheur-du-jour), into the bases of 
their wardrobes, and their low book-shelves. But 
there is no evidence at all that they invented the 
horrible wardrobe with looking-glass door. The 
suggestion has been frequently supported by a 
passage in Barbier's Journal, in which he tells 
how the Marechal de Richelieu was in the habit 
of visiting the charming Madame de la Popeliniere 
by a secret passage opening into " an apparent 
wardrobe (armoire), which was of looking-glass." 
It is almost certain that the " wardrobe " in 

^ Table, Fig. 33, has a charming stucco top imitating coloured 
marbles ; the subject of the decoration is a " monkey-piece," 
enframed in rococo ornaments and fantastic architecture, in the 
manner of B6rain. 



62 LOUIS XV FURNITURE 

question was a cupboard, the doors of which were 
made of looking-glass in compartments, to match 
a real door or window ; cupboards were fre- 
quently called armoires ; and we find no other 
mention of wardrobes with looking-glasses till 
the beginning of the nineteenth century. 

To be complete, we should also describe the 
internal arrangement and ornamentation of furni- 
ture ; it will be enough to say that the majority 
of small pieces with any pretensions to elegance 
were inlaid on the backs of their doors as well as 
on the fronts, and that their inner surfaces were 
hung with green watered silk divided into com- 
partments or lozenges by silver galoon, vdth white 
satin, or with flowered tabby. 

Thus the cabinet-makers of the eighteenth 
century had a remarkable variety of resources for 
the embellishment of their furniture ; and it is 
no slight praise to say that they drew upon these 
resources to the utmost without ever abusing 
them. 



CHAPTER IV : PANELLED 
FURNITURE 

Panelled furniture, all derived from the ancient 
chest or coffer, consists of receptacles for various 
objects. Its essential features are a framework 
of jambs and traverses supporting thin panels 
slipped into grooves. Such furniture is closed 
either hy doors, by drawers, or by flaps. It forms 
an important family, the chief members of which 
are the wardrobe, the sideboard, the commode, 
and the secretary. 

Honour to whom honour is due ; the wardrobe 
holds the first place, as much by reason of its 
imposing size as by its importance in modest 
household goods, of which it is the undisputed 
queen. It was not a creation of the eighteenth 
century ; not, indeed, to this century, but to its 
predecessor do we owe the large wardrobe all in 
one piece, though it became general at the later 
period. Under many different names — garderobe 
in Provence, lingers in the south-west, corbeille de 
mariage in Normandy, cabinet in Brittany — it was, 
together with the bed, the chief item in all house- 
furnishings, and very soon no home, however 
humble, was without it. The young bride of the 
peasant or small tradesman class brought it with 
her as part of her dowry to keep her trousseau in, 
and throughout her life the good housewife, in 
her white kerchief or starched cap, will polish it as 
if her one function in life were to give the fair 

63 



64 LOUIS XV FURNITURE 

walnut, the rosy cherrywood, the sturdy oak that 
inimitable bloom which will enchant the lover of 
antiquities a century hence. How many of us 
can recall some such provincial wardrobe among 
our childish memories ! It inspired a kind of 
respectful admiration v\dth its mighty bulk, its 
broad shining surfaces, its elaborate metal fittings, 
and the mystery of all that slumbered in its 
deep recesses. It was a thrilling moment when 
it opened under the hand of a grandmother, 
with the familiar but always surprising creak 
of its big lock, the long moan of its hinges, 
and a breath of mingled scents, made up of 
dried rose-leaves, iris, and a hint of the sandal- 
wood box brought from India by some sailor 
ancestor. 

The majority of these roomy, decorative, and 
time-defying wardrobes have one fault — a grave 
one in view of the kind of bee-hive cells in which 
we are condemned to pass our lives in Paris : 
their dimensions. They are sometimes from 
2 metres 50 to 2 metres 75 in height by i metre 
40 in breadth. Those of the Louis XV period 
are especially cumbersome, because of the high 
arched pediment which generally crowns them. 
But others of more moderate size are to be found ; 
and the Norman, Breton, and Lorrain examples 
with a horizontal cornice are not rare. 

The arched cornices are sometimes S-shaped 
— that is to say, formed of two long-drawn-out 
S-curves, merging one into the other, and con- 
tinuing from one angle to the other (Figs. 5, 6, 7), 



WARDROBES 65 

or divided by a central motive (Fig. 4) ; some- 
times in " basket-handle " form, with an horizon- 
tal piece at either end (Fig. 8). The door-leaves 
are divided into two or three plain panels with 
curving contours, and are enframed in mouldings. 
When there are three panels, the central one is 
smaller than the others, and is placed a little 
lower than the centre of the door. The traverse 
of the base is cut out into festoons with a moulding 
at the edge which continues along the angles of 
the legs ; these, curved in the " doe's-foot form," 
terminate in a volute which rests on a cube. The 
upper traverse, called the frieze, follows the form 
of the pediment, and the tops of the door-leaves 
are also cut out to harmonize with this form. The 
angles of the whole are rounded, and its sides are 
made of panels with mouldings, simpler in design 
than those of the front. 

The Parisian wardrobes, which are often very- 
masterly and intricate in construction, are very- 
sober in decoration ; generally speaking, their 
only ornament is the division into plain panels 
enframed in the fine mouldings described above. 
There is nothing surprising in their simplicity ; 
in the capital they were " for use as linen-cup- 
boards," says the Encyclopedia, and were not of 
much importance, whereas in the provinces they 
occupied the place of honour, even in rich homes. 

As we cannot pass all the provinces in review, 
we must be content to describe only the typical 
cupboards of the south-west, Provence, and 
Normandy. 

VII E 



66 LOUIS XV FURNITURE 

Those of the south-west (Figs. 5 and 6), or 
rather of Bordeaux and the lower valleys of the 
Garonne and the Dordogne, remain simple, and 
have two panels to each half of the door ; the 
lower panel, not so high as the upper one, is 
rectangular at the base ; its sides, like those of 
the second panel, are rectilinear ; but at the top 
it is curved, and at the junction of the curves the 
moulding often expands into carved crockets and 
acanthus-leaves. Parts ornamented with more 
important carvings, the motives being generally 
beans, shells, palm-leaves, and running foliage 
patterns, are the broad oblique traverse which 
separates the two panels, and the top of the half- 
door. This is completely enframed by a strong 
moulding. More elaborate types have carvings 
on the lower traverse, with a central motive, 
very often a pierced shell ; an acanthus-leaf is 
applied on the legs ; the non-practicable neutral 
part, which is in one with the left half-door, is 
also carved sometimes ; as to the frieze, it is always 
very simple, and either quite plain or with a slight 
moulding. The mouldings leave little room on 
these cupboards for the metal fittings ; they are 
reduced to a small escutcheon of pierced steel on 
the right half-door, a symmetrical false escutcheon 
of the left half, and two long thin pins as high as 
the door-leaves, which terminate in turned acorns 
most refined and elegant in profile. 

These three bands of carving, so happily distri- 
buted, separated as they are by large plain surfaces 
and connected by the long vertical mouldings of 



METAL FITTINGS 67 

the framework, make up a whole of a fine architec- 
tonic character ; in our opinion no provincial 
wardrobe is so perfect as this sober Louis XV 
linen-press of Bordeaux and its neighbourhood. 
The wood is walnut, but sometimes it is cherry 
or even mahogany. 

Provencal wardrobes (Fig. 7) are somewhat 
different in character, in spite of a general like- 
ness in silhouette and proportions ; the lines are 
less sedate, the ornament, both of wood and metal, 
is more florid ; they have more southern exuber- 
ance. Each door has three panels, all the sides of 
which are curved in accordance with a very com- 
plicated design ; these panels stand up from a 
plain ground, and the margin of each half-door 
is covered with iron fittings for its entire height ; 
six similar escutcheons (one of them real, the 
other five false and serving merely for ornaments) 
form in threes two long continuous bands of 
metal — an illogical excess of decoration. The 
design of these flat bands of steel, worked entirely 
with the file in an open-work pattern, is, however, 
often exquisite. The very large pins — they are 
sometimes three centimetres in diameter — are 
either two or six in number. The frieze is always 
ornamented like the lower traverse. Nothing 
could be gayer or more charming than these 
presses, when the fine light walnut-wood of which 
they are made is resplendent and all their steel 
fittings are gleaming. j>^' 

In connection with the Provencal cupboards 
it is interesting to note what a long popularity 



68 LOUIS XV FURNITURE 

the Louis XV Style enjoyed at a distance from 
Paris ; but this appHes also to other pieces of 
furniture and other provincial districts. When 
once they had adopted the S-shaped pediment, 
the console legs, the curved and non-axial form 
of the panels, cabinet-makers held their hands, 
and continued throughout the century, and after- 
wards, to make furniture on strictly Louis XV 
lines ; the influence of the new style that reigned 
in Paris was revealed only in the carved ornament 
which covered the whole surface, except the panels, 
with flowering branches, garlands, quivers, torches, 
hearts, knotted ribbons, antique cups, vases, and 
baskets. The purely Provengal Louis XV piece 
is generally ornamented only with mouldings ; 
but this is not an absolute rule, and it is some- 
times very difficult to distinguish between 
periods. 

Finally, we must devote a few words to the 
Norman cupboards, which are so famous that 
most Parisians generously attribute every old, or 
soi-disant old, wardrobe to Normandy ; of these 
Norman cupboards — ^the most freely " faked " of 
all pieces of furniture — ^which the Faubourg 
Saint- Antoine places upon the market with truly 
astonishing fecundity. They are nearly always of 
oak, and with the exception of certain fine models 
of the most refined sobriety, such as the example 
we reproduce (Fig. 4), they are much more 
elaborately decorated than their Arlesian sisters. 
However, they have not so many metal fittings ; 
in general they have only two escutcheons — 



CUPBOARDS 69 

though these are immense — and their pins are 
less imposing. But the richness of the carvings 
is astounding. In addition to the fundamental 
motives of the style — the bean, the shell, the pear- 
shaped cartouche — we have older and more tra- 
ditional elements of ornaments ; rosettes, palms, 
scallops, a series of grooves cut in the semicircular 
gorge, and a host of others, invented by artists 
who cared nothing about following the fashions 
of Paris ; for instance, bands of draped stuff, or 
rows of beads, forming festoons. The cabinet- 
maker carves everything that can be carved, and 
respects only the surface of the panels. Towards 
the top of the cupboard, in the centre of the 
frieze, he places large motives in high relief, 
which overhang, and break the lines of the cornice ; 
sometimes carved in the material itself, they are 
merely in high relief ; sometimes they are carved 
independently in the round, and pegged on to 
the bare surface of the frieze. These " dust- 
traps," often very graceful but rather too much 
in the nature of ornamental plaques applied to 
the piece of furniture and not incorporated with 
it, are also to be found on certain Arlesian cup- 
boards, half Louis XV, half Louis XVL 

There were, of course, a good many simpler 
types, with single or double doors, such as the 
modest Saintongeais cupboard (Fig. 8) with the 
" basket-handle " pediment, the rustic carvings 
and mouldings of which are both ingenious and 
tasteful. We note in the wardrobes of this 
region a very curious liking for polychromy ; 



70 LOUIS XV FURNITURE 

the cabinet-maker is fond of setting panels of 
massive walnut in a framework of cherry, or knot- 
elm in walnut ; he emphasizes his carvings by 
touches of black paint. 

A very attractive variety of cupboard, much in 
request because of its small size, was the bonnetiere 
(cap-cupboard), Breton, Norman, or Provencal ; 
it is a small piece of slender proportions, generally 
v^th a single door ; this has sometimes an open- 
work panel at the top, ornamented with turned 
spindle-heads ; in this case the bonnetiere is closely 
akin to the larder-cupboard. 

The book-case only began to be differentiated 
from the cupboard in the general evolution of the 
type about the year 1700 ; Boulle was perhaps 
its inventor. Book-cases were not in common use 
until the fashion of a STUdiW. format for books was 
general ; the large, heavy folios and quartos which 
were the basis of all collections of books in the 
preceding century would have required immensely 
large and solid cases ; it would have been very 
inconvenient to take them down from high shelves; 
they were either piled upon the floor or arranged 
in the bottom of cupboards. Authentic Louis XV 
book-cases are rare. They are nearly always wide 
and low, five feet high by six feet wide, for instance ; 
sometimes, indeed, they are no more than breast 
high. In this case they have marble tops like 
commodes. The doors, made of a trellis of 
gilded wire, were lined with green, yellow, or 
crimson silk. 

Angles, agfwe have said, were shunned in the 



CORNER-SHELVES 71 

Louis XV period ; and this gave rise to the in- 
vention of the corner-cupboard. There are some 
very high ones, made for dining-rooms. Mould- 
ings were their sole decoration, and they generally 
matched or, at least, harmonized with the wood- 
work, and were painted the same colour ; they 
were made in two parts, one above the other. 
Low ones, breast high, with tops of fine marble, 
were made for drawing-rooms and cabinets ; these 
were often surmounted by shelves in tiers of three 
or four, gradually diminishing towards the top. 
They were called " corner-shelves with a cupboard 
in the middle," or very often simply " corners." 
Nearly all these " corners " have quadricircular 
projecting facades, or curving facades formed of 
one convex curve between two concave ones. 
These little pieces are very much coveted, 
especially if a pair can be found, to give a Louis 
XV cachet to a room, and to hold antique or 
Chinese curios. About 1750 no room was con- 
sidered complete without " corners " ; Madame 
de Pompadour ordered thirty in mahogany one 
day from Lazare Duvaux for her country house, 
the Chateau de Crecy. 

The " under-cupboard " (Figs 9 and 10), as 
its name shows, is nothing more than the base of 
the old wardrobe in two parts, which has become 
independent. It is a piece of furniture with two 
or three doors, the height of which ranges from 
I metre to i metre 50 cm. The lowest are, 
properly speaking, commodes in the form of 
under-cupboards. They were used in ante- 



72 LOUIS XV FURNITURE 

rooms and dining-rooms. Those which were 
made for dining-rooms took the place of the 
stately sideboards of the Louis XIV period, or, 
rather, they were simplified sideboards, serving 
the double purpose of a buffet and a place for 
plates and dishes removed from the table. 

The sparsely furnished dining-rooms with 
which architects first provided the rich apart- 
ments or mansions of Paris contained only under- 
cupboards, tables, and consoles ; but the Parisian 
bourgeoisie owned large closed sideboards in two 
parts, sometimes so lofty that the upper part, 
with its door of three panels, looked like a complete 
wardrobe perched on an " under-cupboard " a 
little wider. These sideboards in two parts were 
also very frequent in Normandy, Brittany (Fig. 1 1), 
Auvergne, and part of Provence. 

But in the principal furniture-manufacturing 
centre of Provence, Aries, only a very special 
kind of sideboard, the credence- sideboard, was 
made (Fig. 13). This, too, was in two parts, 
but the very small upper cupboard looks as if it 
had been cut off sharply from its base. As the 
lower portion projects considerably beyond the 
small superposed structure it could accommodate 
a great many articles during a meal, and also 
serve for clearing the table. On certain examples 
decorative ob j ects may even be left standing perma- 
nently, for the doors of the upper part run back 
on grooves instead of opening on hinges. These 
two doors, together with the fixed panel between 
them — sometimes replaced by a tiny hinged cup- 



SIDEBOARDS 73 

board, called a tabernacle — form a very animated 
facade, the undulations of which produce the most 
agreeable play of reflections and shadow. The 
lower portion has two doors, separated by a fixed 
plat-band ; the fagade is straight, but covered 
with delicate carvings. A curious characteristic 
is the size of the pins and escutcheons, which even 
on the tabernacle, when this exists, are often as 
voluminous as those of the largest wardrobe.^ 
The lower part rarely has drawers ; if it has these 
they are furnished with large, handsome drop- 
handles of pierced ironwork. This Arlesian 
credence-sideboard is a charming and original 
invention. 

The dresser-sideboard (buffet-vaisselier) (Fig. 14) 
is common to all provinces, and known in Gascony 
as an escudie^ in Champagne as a menage, and in 
Auvergne as a vaisselier, it is more or less the same 
everywhere. It is an under-cupboard with two 
or three doors, surmounted by a tier of two or 
three shelves set back on the top. This Hagere 
is generally movable ; placed upon the lower 
portion it fits into it by tenons which are not fixed 
in their mortices ; it has always a solid back, and 
often two lateral partitions with panels ; when 
these latter are absent, turned uprights support 
the angles of the shelves ; the upper and more 
important shelf has a cornice-moulding, and under 
it a scalloped and sometimes a carved band ; the 
others are edged with a beading, to secure objects 
placed on the shelves, or with a little turned 

^ Not, however, in the example reproduced in Fig. 13. 



74 LOUIS XV FURNITURE 

balustrade. The vaisselier was the parent of our 
modern sideboard, with its glazed upper part 
and its cellaret, a piece of furniture that did 
not exist before last century ; all sideboards 
of this kind which lay claim to styles such as 
" Henri II " or " Louis XV " are absurd 
anachronisms. 

The secretary, or at least the cupboard-secre- 
tary, is another derivative of the wardrobe (Fig. 19). 
For there were also commode-secretaries and 
bureau-secretaries of which we shall speak presently. 
It was the cupboard-secretary — a very practical 
possession to people who knew not our modern 
American bureaux, and an object that lent itself 
admirably to decoration — which was most popular 
from the time of Louis XV to that of Louis- 
Philippe. It was invented in the middle of the 
century, and is described as follows in the In- 
ventaire general du Mobilier de la Couronne of 
1760 : " a cupboard-secretary, the front of which 
closes with a lock and key and may be let down 
to form a writing-table covered with black 
morocco ; it contains six drawers with handles 
and rosettes ; the lower part has a double-door 
which locks and contains one large and two small 
shelves. ..." To be complete the inventory 
should have added that this complex piece of 
furniture further possessed a drawer extending 
right across the upper part, and a marble shelf 
with a moulding to crown the whole. The lower 
cupboard sometimes enclosed drawers instead of 
shelves, or a safe, and was sometimes replaced by 



COMMODES js 

three drawers ; when this was the case it became 
a " chiffonier-secretary " instead of a " cupboard- 
secretary," The usual dimensions were about 
I metre 60 cm. high by i metre wide and 40 cm. 
deep. The great decorative merit of the sec- 
retary-cupboard was the large square surface of 
the adjustable front, which enabled the inlayer 
to compose an important central motive, such as 
a bouquet of flowers or a group of attributes. 
The beautiful secretary we reproduce, although 
its bronzes are in the Louis XVI Style, is essen- 
tially Louis XV in the contour of the inlaid 
compartments and the attenuated form of the top, 
described as amortissement en chanfrein (literally, 
deadening by chamfer). These secretaries are 
sometimes designed to fit into corners. Their 
interiors, more or less complicated, contain an 
amusing combination of little drawers, apparent 
or secret, shelves, pigeon-holes, and receptacles 
for papers. 

We now come to what is, perhaps, the most 
characteristic piece of furniture of the Louis XV 
period, the commode, or chest of drawers ; it 
was in the composition of this that joiners and 
cabinet-makers were able to give the freest course 
to their taste for undulating lines and convex 
surfaces and reveal the rich elegance of their 
gilded bronzes. 

This, again, was a piece of furniture invented 
towards the end of Louis XIV's reign which did 
not come into common use until the time of 
the Regency. Boulle's pompous, " tomb-like " 



76 LOUIS XV FURNITURE 

commodes were merely show-pieces of an excep- 
tional character ; the ordinary chest of drawers 
was born with the eighteenth century. The 
Dictionnaire de Trevoux of 1708 gives the word 
commode as a new one. In 171 8, again, the 
Duchess of Orleans (Madame, the Regent's 
mother), wrote in a letter : " The present the 
Duchesse de Berry has given my daughter is a 
charming one ; she has sent her a commode. A 
commode is a large table with large drawers." 
This, however, is not very exact ; the commode is 
much more closely akin to a chest mounted upon 
legs than to a table. 

The Louis XV commode has from two to four 
drawers, superposed in two or three rows ; two 
large, or one large and two small, or three large, or 
finally, two large and two small. When there are 
two small drawers at the top they are sometimes 
of equal size, and are separated by a non-practicable 
part which has generally a false escutcheon corres- 
ponding to those below (Fig. 26), and sometimes 
unequal when the larger of the two has this false 
escutcheon at the end (Fig. 21). In the latter 
case the division between the drawers is masked 
as much as possible either by ornaments of mar- 
quetry and lacquer, which are continued from one 
part to another, or in some very refined but not 
very logical examples, by bronzes which are com- 
bined in a central motive extending over the whole 
front of the piece of furniture. The more modest 
specimens always proclaim their structure much 
more frankly. Commodes with two tiers of 



COMMODES ^^ 

drawers are, of course, more slender than others ; 
when their legs are not overslight, and their 
curves are well studied, they achieve supreme 
elegance. This variety was distinguished as the 
" commode on high legs." 

There is an infinite variety of commodes. 
Some are massive and protuberant, crouching like 
poussahs upon short, thick legs ; others are small 
and slender, and it is difficult to say whether they 
should be classed as commodes or as chijfonnieres ; 
these latter, very sober in style and almost recti- 
linear, everywhere proclaim their style only in the 
slight undulation of their vertical fagade, their 
scalloped traverse below, and the motives of their 
metal-work (Figs. 22 and 27) ; the former, on the 
contrary, skilfully combine vertical and horizontal 
curves ; their sides have the same contour as their 
fronts, and often swell out towards the base. 
Some are obvious villagers, and with their iron 
handles and their carvings cut with a knife have 
a kind of jocund rusticity, a most amusing savour 
of the soil (Fig. 22). The " nun-commode " 
{commode religieuse) (Fig 24) is high and narrow 
and quite small ; it is a low chiffonier with three 
drawers. The console-commode (Figs. 25 and 
26), which was made in Paris (Lazare Duvaux 
sold them) but is common throughout the south 
of France, recalls the console-table by its ten- 
dency to diminish towards the base ; the upper 
drawers are concave ; that in the middle is 
convex and is separated from these by a little 
vertical band, which takes away the impression of 



78 LOUIS XV FURNITURE 

effeminacy,^ the lower one, curving outward, 
terminates the re-entering curve ; the sides have 
the same contour as the facade ; the very ani- 
mated console-legs and the lower traverse are 
those of a southern wardrobe. 

The chiffomiier (not to be confounded with the 
chiffonniere, which is a table) is nothing but a high 
chest of drawers. It is generally about i m. 50 
or I m. 60 high, and has five drawers and a marble 
top, the angles being chamfered. It is an essentially 
feminine piece of furniture of costly workmanship, 
nearly always in rosewood or violet ebony, with 
drops, handles, escutcheons, and feet of gilded 
bronze. It made its first appearance about the 
middle of the century. 

At about the same date the commode, allying 
itself to the bureau with a slanting flap, gave birth 
to the commode-secretary (Figs. 29 and 30). This 
is a commode in the console style, the upper desk 
part of which opens by means of a sloping flap 
which forms a writing-table ; the upper part of 
the secretary has the usual accessories of such 
pieces of furniture, shelves, little drawers, etc. 

Becoming more complicated, the secretary- 
commode took to itself a cupboard-top, and this 
produced a new variety, the monumental secre- 
tary, on which the shipowners of Bordeaux v^nrote 
their letters at the time of the Seven Years War ; 
a fine piece of furniture in oak or mahogany which 
would be perfectly practical if, in order to open 

^ This feature is lacking in the commode-secretary. Fig. 30, 
which accounts for the lack of firmness in its lines. 



SECRETARY-COMMODES 79 

the drawers of the under part one were not 
obHged to get up and push back one's chair, and 
if a person writing at it were able to stretch out 
his legs. On the whole, this secretary-commode- 
wardrobe is closely akin to the Dutch and Flemish 
scrihanne and suggests some connection between 
the two. This is by no means improbable, for 
at this period Bordeaux often imported Nether- 
lands furniture. 



CHAPTER V : THE TABLE 
AND ITS DEVELOPMENTS 

The transformation of tables at the beginning of 
the eighteenth century was at once rapid, com- 
plete, and peculiarly happy. They became 
simpler and lighter ; save in the case of certain 
large types, they dispensed with all the compli- 
cated apparatus of traverses and connecting 
motives between the legs, and relied for solidity 
on the robust and precise juncture of the legs 
with the frieze above. They gained appreciably 
in grace of outline from the new practice of 
making the upper surface overhang the legs more, 
and of attenuating the supports, sometimes, it 
must be admitted, to an exaggerated extent. 

All the varieties of Louis XV tables — and their 
name is legion — ^have one uniform characteristic : 
the lines of their legs, which are invariably of the 
■pied-de-biche type. Even the kitchen-tables of 
the peasantry make a rude attempt to get this 
undulating outline, reminding one of a country 
wench attempting to make a Court curtsey. When 
these legs, which describe an S-curve more or less 
pronounced, do not terminate in cases of gilded 
bronze they are finished off by a small volute 
resting on a cube (Figs. 33, 34, 36), or by a graceful 
projection which is a kind of adaptation of the 
doe's-foot (Fig. 42) ; this latter is sometimes re- 
tained, but very infrequently (Figs. 35, 37, 50).^ 

^ In the last example it is quite degenerate. We shall find it 
again in the time of Louis XVI. 

80 - 



DINING-TABLES 8i 

Large tables of the period are very rare in these 
days. It would be very difficult, for instance, 
to procure a genuine old Louis XV dining-table. 
They were used, of course ; but they were so 
cumbersome that they have been nearly all 
destroyed. They were either round or oval ; a 
set of furniture included several of different sizes. 
We learn from Mile Guimard's inventory that 
the famous dancer had three tables to seat ten, 
fifteen and thirty persons respectively. These 
huge pieces of carpentry had no pretensions to 
beauty for a very good reason, the tablecloths 
that covered them fell to the ground, so they were 
never seen. Consequently common trestle-tables 
were often used as substitutes for them. Tables 
" of the English kind " — that is to say, with ad- 
justable leaves — did not come into use until the 
close of the reign, about 1770, when the Louis XVI 
Style was in full vogue. 

Before leaving the dining-room, we may 
mention the dumb waiter : it was a little round 
table with superposed shelves, in the upper part 
of which was a wine-cooler. Furnished with clean 
plates and covers it stood near the table (it was 
usual to have four), and enabled the guests at a 
little supper to serve themselves without the 
irksome presence of servants. 

Medium-sized and small tables for every sort 
of purpose, suitable for drawing-room, boudoir, 
or bedroom, are to be found in a great variety of 
forms : round, rectangular, canted, with and 
without drawers ; their friezes are carved or 

VII F 



82 LOUIS XV FURNITURE 

moulded, sometimes straight (Fig. 32), but more 
often with curves of contrary flexure (Fig. 42) or 
festoons (Figs. 33 to 37, etc.). Some have a 
peculiarity which makes them at once more con- 
venient and more graceful : the surface is sunk 
like a shallow basin vnth edges (Figs. 33, 34, 42), 
or they have appHed edges. Among these little 
occasional-tables (known as ambulantes, and in 
the south as correntilles), the simplest without or 
almost without mouldings, are often exquisitely 
graceful by reason of the happy proportions of 
their various parts — top, frieze, and legs — and the 
perfect line of their supports. 

The console, like so many other pieces of 
furniture, dates from the reign of Louis XIV. 
Under Louis XV it was called a console- 
table (table en console) or, somewhat oddly, a 
console-table leg, with its marble {pied de table 
en console^ avec son marbre). It was a fix- 
ture, ornamental rather than useful, and had 
its appointed place in drawing-room or dining- 
room under the pier-glass. As it formed part 
of the decoration of a room it was nearly always 
gilded or painted, and was highly ornamental, 
with a costly marble top of Aleppo breccia, sarran- 
colin, or brocatelle. Being fixed to the wall, its 
legs (two in number) were free to take the most 
fantastic shapes and often showed the most 
audacious false bearings ; sometimes they came 
together at the base, and the piece was then called 
a pied de table a consoles rassembUes or en cul-de- 
lamfe (Fig. 40) . Relieved from any preoccupations 



CARD-TABLES 83 

as to solidity, designers gave free rein to their 
fancy in these models, and it is in certain 
consoles that we find the most extravagant 
excesses of the rococo style ; the examples wq 
reproduce, in spite of the somev^^hat exuberant 
tendency of their decoration, are comparatively 
simple (Figs. 38 and 39). 

In the drawing-rooms of this society which 
had been passionately addicted to card-playing 
for a century, there was an infinite variety of 
card-tables. For lovers of tri, or ombre for three, 
there was the triangular trio-table (Fig. 43) ; for 
quadrille, there were square tables, often with 
round trays at the corners for candles ; for five- 
handed brelau and reversi, there were pentagonal 
tables ; for piquet, ingenious tables wdth folding 
tops mounted on pivots ; this is the classic French 
card-table ; it was invented during the period 
we are studying, and is still known as a " Louis XV 
pivot-table." All were mounted with cloth ; but 
the conventional green cloth was often replaced 
by velvet edged wdth a gold or silver galoon. 

In every study the essential piece of furniture, 
when it was not a secretary, was a bureau. The 
simplest kind of Louis XV bureau is a large table, 
covered with a dark-coloured morocco leather, 
enframed in a gold tooling similar to that on the 
bindings of books ; an ornamental fillet, also of 
gold, covers the join in the leather, for a single 
skin is not large enough to cover such a table. A 
quadricircular moulding of gilded bronze runs 
round the top, the rounded corners of which 



84 LOUIS XV FURNITURE 

often project. Three drawers open in the frieze. 
That in the middle, the lowest of the three, is 
rectilinear, while the other two are curved ; their 
frontal lines are parallel with the external con- 
tour of the piece of furniture. The bronze 
decoration, more or less rich, generally consists 
of escutcheons, sometimes accompanied by fixed 
handles, of two curving acanthus-leaf ornaments 
separating the two drawers, and of drops at the 
top of the legs often attached to the quadri- 
circular moulding, and of casings connected with 
the drops on the arrises of the legs by enframing 
fillets. The panels of the three remaining sides 
of the frieze often have bronze motives in the 
centre, and the acanthus leaves of the facade are 
repeated at the back. The framework is of oak, 
nearly always veneered with mahogany. The 
bureau of Fig. 44 is a perfectly classic type ; it 
belonged to a bishop, whose arms, surmounted 
by a tasselled hat, adorn the sides. 

In this form the bureau with its three drawers, 
the central one of which the user could only 
open by changing his position, would have been 
a retrogression from the seventeenth-century 
bureau had it not been supplemented by a 
" bureau-end " or " bureau-stand," a little ac- 
cessory object placed on one end of the table, or 
incorporated with it. It consisted of tiers of 
small shelves for the temporary reception of papers 
and of a drawer ; it was provided with doors 
like a little cupboard, it was known as a " paper- 
holder " (serre-papiers). 



LADIES' BUREAUX 85 

But the crowning perfection was added towards 
the middle of the century, when the cyHnder- 
bureau was invented, perhaps by Oeben himself. 
The revolving top was a great convenience ; at 
a touch it closed all the upper drawers, and 
covered the writing-table when the owner 
wished to hide his papers hurriedly from indiscreet 
eyes. 

Side by side with these large masculine bureaux 
the cabinet-makers of the period produced an 
endless variety of ladies' bureaux, dainty pieces 
of furniture in precious woods, with bronzes 
chased like jewels, in which the utmost refine- 
ment and delicacy were displayed ; they were 
worthy shrines for the charming letters and 
sparkling memoirs penned upon them. The 
varieties may be grouped round two principal 
types : the bureau known to modern dealers as 
the bureau a pente or d dos (Tdne (slanting or 
" donkey 's-back " bureau), and called in the 
language of their day a table or bureau a dessus 
brise (with a broken top) and a bo?iheur du jour. 

The former (Figs. 45 to 47) had a flap either 
veneered with fine wood or inlaid on the outer 
surface, and covered inside with blue, green, or 
yellow velvet or with morocco leather ; when 
opened, it rested on two wooden slides with knobs, 
unless it was upheld horizontally by two " com- 
passes," metal supports that sHd back into the 
sides of the bureau. When it was let down this 
dessus brise revealed a more or less complicated 
arrangement of little drawers and shelves ; two 



86 LOUIS XV FURNITURE 

larger drawers opened in the frieze. A further 
refinement provided a bhnd or movable screen at 
the back of the bureau, made of India paper or 
silk, which made it possible to write without 
discomfort in front of a sunny window or a large 
fire. 

The bonheur du jour did not receive this co- 
quettish name till quite at the end of the reign, 
when it was already made in the Louis XVI Style ; 
but it had been in existence for some fifteen years. 
In 1754 Lazare Duvaux sold to M. de la Boissiere 
a "writing-table with desk, cupboard, mirrors, and 
a strong-box," and to the Keeper of the Seals "a 
little table v^ith a drawer, ink-horns, and desk, and 
a looking-glass above." These were undoubtedly 
bonheurs du jour. The first-named had even those 
mirror-doors which became regular adjuncts in 
the following period, adjuncts which feminine 
coquetry was bound to demand ; what better 
ornament could a pretty woman desire for a piece 
of furniture than her own face ? But the majority 
of Louis XV bonheurs du jour have doors in inlaid 
wood, unless, indeed, their cupboard is closed by 
a sliding panel the articulated slats of which may 
be slipped back into the sides, or is " made in 
bookcase form " — in other words, furnished with 
a row of sham books. 

Many wrriting-tables were neither men's bureaux 
nor ladies' bureaux, but real Httle tables, arranged 
conveniently for writing, though their purpose 
was not patent at the first glance. They had 
movable tops, running in grooves ; when the 



WORK-TABLES 87 

owner wanted to write he pulled out a tablet 
mounted with leather or velvet, and opened on 
the right a little drawer which contained writing- 
paper, a seal and seahng-wax, an inkstand with 
its inkhorns of plated metal, its pounce-box, its 
sponge-box for wiping pens, and the elongated 
tray which held pens and penknife. This was 
the simplest form ; others were more complicated. 
These had a blind or a screen, a movable desk 
rising from the centre of the top, like the mirror 
on a dressing-table, to support a book or a sheet 
of music. Sometimes the entire top of the table 
could be inchned at will ; this was a table with a 
top that Hfts up. Others were still more elaborate ; 
Lazare Duvaux, prudently refraining from a de- 
tailed description of such complexities, says 
briefly : "a very elaborate little table {petite table 
tres composee).^'' 

Again, for the boudoir or the small reception- 
room where intimate friends were welcomed, there 
was a whole graceful family of work-tables or 
chiffonnieres (Figs. 48 and 49), " generally used by 
women," says the Encyclo-pcedia, " to keep their 
work or trifles in." The top was of marble or 
wood, with a gallery on three sides ; two or three 
drawers were superposed ; sometimes at the 
bottom the legs were connected by a shelf en- 
closed in a high network, for balls of wool. The 
drawers were lined with silk of some light colour, 
and was sometimes divided into compartments ; 
they were used as receptacles for the piece of 
embroidery in progress when this was not on a 



88 LOUIS XV FURNITURE 

frame, the box for ravelling galoon, the gold 
needle-case, the scissors and prints for cutting out, 
when this was in vogue — in short, all the little 
boxes and accessories indispensable to the lady of 
fashion — not forgetting Pamela, Le Paysan par- 
venu, or some other novel of the day. It is not 
always easy to distinguish between these chijfonniere 
tables with three drawers and certain small chests 
of drawers on high legs. There are also simpler 
tables, very small and light, intended to be moved 
about easily ; they have a single drawer, and an 
upper shelf with curving sides ; there are holes in 
these, into which the hands were slipped when 
the table was lifted (Fig. 50). 

We must not forget all the slim, little round 
tables, and all the " crescent " or " bean "-shaped 
tables (sometimes less elegantly described as 
" kidney "-tables), with tiny drawers and spindle- 
legs, looking as if a flick of the finger would upset 
them, and many others besides, miniature pieces 
that bear witness to the sense of grace the French 
possessed to such a supreme degree at this 
period. 

But this is not all ; we have still to examine the 
bedroom, and we must not forget that the dress- 
ing-room did not exist, even after 1750, in any 
but the most luxurious houses.^ There was, 
accordingly, a toilet-table in every bedroom, 
a foudreuse, as the modern dealers call them ; the 
word is an invention of their own ; they consider 
it more " eighteenth century " no doubt. A 

^ Even so, there was only one at Versailles, the Queen "s ! 



DRESSING-TABLES 89 

dressing-table, whether inlaid with rosewood or 
lemon- wood, or made of simple wild cherrywood, 
whether furnished with costly bronze fittings or 
not, was nearly always designed as follows 
(Fig. 41) : it was of small dimensions (80 cm. by 
45 cm.) ; the top was divided into three parts ; 
the centre was fitted with a mirror, which was 
made to lift up and slide forward on two grooves, 
inchning backwards a little like a reading-desk ; the 
two sides were fixed on hinges ; when they were 
opened right and left, they formed two horizontal 
shelves on which toilet articles could be arranged, 
and disclosed two compartments or coffers 
{caissons). In the more carefully finished models 
these, again, had covers which opened backwards. 
The compartments were lined with tabby or satin, 
and the inner covers were wadded. The divisions 
of the left compartment contained the scent- 
bottles, the china pomade-pots, the pincushion, 
the silver-gilt cup, the powder-box, the knife for 
removing powder, and little boxes for almond 
paste, rouge, patches, and orris-root, etc., for 
cleaning the teeth ; the right compartment was 
the receptacle for the minute basin which sufficed 
for the relative cleanliness of our forbears. In the 
centre of the front was a flap that pulled out, and 
under it a drawer for brushes and combs ; right 
and left, four smaller drawers, two false ones above, 
corresponding to the coffers, and two real ones 
below. This was one of the best-designed and the 
most graceful pieces of furniture invented in the 
eighteenth century. 



90 LOUIS XV FURNITURE 

In addition to this classic type, there were toilet- 
tables in " butterfly," chest of drawers, cupboard, 
heart or crescent form, and also corner toilet- 
tables. These little tables were frequently fitted 
with castors, at a time when castors were still 
rare, showing that they were moved about from 
place to place. As we know from all the memoires, 
novels, and letters of the period, to say nothing 
of pictures and prints, the women of Louis XV's 
time used to receive their admirers and friends who 
came to bring them all the latest news, seated at 
their dressing-tables in a coquettish deshabille, 
while the hairdresser arranged their powdered 
curls en equivoque or en galante, and they them- 
selves equalized the rouge on their cheeks with a 
hare's-foot, or anxiously debated the exact spot 
on which a patch was to be applied. And when 
the visitors were numerous the important process 
had to be carried out, not in the bedroom, but in 
the boudoir or the small reception-room. 

Other little tables used in the bedroom were : 
the vide-foche (pocket-emptier), a small round 
table vidth a raised edge ; the jewel-table, with 
its compartments of material ; the bed-table for 
the early breakfast, the top of which was a movable 
tray of lacquer or china, very convenient for meals 
in bed ; and, finally, the night-table, open or closed, 
an innovation of the Regency necessitated by the 
disappearance of the great bed of an earlier age, 
with its columns and discreet curtains. 

In this epistolary age, par excellence, many tables 
not primarily writing-tables were provided with a 



WRITING-FLAPS 91 

supplemental flap covered with morocco, and a 
drawer containing an inkstand. Notes were con- 
stantly arriving, and the servant waited for an 
answer, which had to be scribbled forthwith, 
when the recipient was perhaps busy making up 
her face, or working at her embroidery, or in bed ; 
dressing-tables had therefore their writing-flaps 
and inkstands, and their paper cases, as had also 
certain chijfonnieres, certain bed-tables, and even 
certain night-tables. 



CHAPTER VI : SEATS AND 
VARIOUS ARTICLES OF 
FURNITURE 

No articles of furniture reveal the character of a 
period more fully than its seats. Place side by 
side a large Louis XIV arm-chair, rigid, solemn, 
and uncomfortable, with its strongly marked 
structure, its high back, made to enframe the 
huge wig of the day, and a Louis XV bergere, soft 
and low, restful as a bed, and covered with gaily 
flowered silk ; do they not convey to you, as 
clearly as two portraits or two pages of prose, the 
antinomy between two generations separated by 
a whole world ? The one seems made for an 
archbishop, the other for a courtesan. 

Louis XV seats are above all things portable and 
comfortable ; comfortable, because the period 
was epicurean, and portable, because it favoured 
gatherings from which etiquette was banished, 
and at which the guests fell into informal groups, 
determined by the attraction of affinities. They 
were simplified in the same manner as tables, 
by the suppression of their bars, or of their X- 
shaped reinforcements ; these were only retained 
by the straw chairs, for vdthout them, the latter, 
joined together as they were, would have lacked 
solidity. The legs are always curved ; the back, 
save in the case of a very comfortable bergere, in 
which one could sleep (Figs. 53 and 75), became 

92 



CHAIR-BACKS 93 

low, as in the time of Louis XIII, though not to 
the same degree. " Chair-backs," says Roubo 
Junior,^ " rising from above the back legs to the 
height of from eighteen to nineteen inches from 
the seat, to enable the sitter to rest his shoulders 
against them comfortably while leaving the head 
entirely free, to avoid disarranging the hair either 
of ladies or gentlemen, the latter being often quite 
as particular in this respect as the former." A 
contemporary of Louis XIV would never have 
leant against the back of his chair ; what would 
have become of his elaborately curled v^ig ? The 
wood of these backs was but rarely visible (Figs. 
52 and 53) ; they were generally upholstered. 
The shape is very variable. If the back was 
concave, the chair was said to be " ^/^ cabriolet'''' 
(Figs. 55, 58, 61, 62, 64). 

Nearly all the backs were more or less " fiddle- 
back " — that is to say slightly contracted about 
half-way up (Figs. 52 and 54 to 6j). Their 
summits had the double S-curve when the wood- 
work was upholstered ; if this was not the case 
they might terminate in an undulating line un- 
broken by any carved ornament (Figs. 64 to 66), 
or might be of a more or less complicated design, 
vidth a void in the centre, or on either side, 
acanthus leaves carved on the " epaidettes " 
(Figs. 54, 56, etc.), and a central motive composed 
of one, two, or three florets (Figs. 58, 68, 69, etc.), 
a cartouche (Fig. 72), or a shell (Fig. 56), or the 
two together (Fig. 60). A similar motive appears 

^ L'Artdu Menuisier, Paris, 1769-74. 



94 LOUIS XV FURNITURE 

in the centre of the frame beneath the seat and 
at the tops of the legs ; the acanthus leaf occurs 
very frequently at the feet (Figs. 53, 54, etc), and 
also at the junction of the legs with the frame 
(Fig. 60), especially in the earlier phase of the 
style. 

The little padded cushion {manchette) on the 
arms was de rigueur} The consoles of the arms 
no longer continue to the legs, but are always set 
back a little further, and mortised into the side 
traverses of the frame. This modification was a 
concession to feminine fashions. A hundred and 
fifty years earHer the enormous hooped petticoats 
of the day (vertugadins) had led to the introduc- 
tion of " hoop-chairs " — that is to say, chairs with- 
out arms ; and under the Regency the fashion 
of panniers caused the invention of chairs with 
receding arms, which allowed skirts to spread out 
fully round their wearers. " The panniers worn 
are so full," says Barbier in his Journal (1728), 
" that the action of sitting dowrn pushes out the 
whalebones, and causes such an astonishing 
distension of the skirt that it has been necessary 
to make special chairs." Sometimes the junction 
of the console and the frame is visible (Figs. 55, 
71, etc.), sometimes it is covered by the material 
used for upholstering (Fig. 58, etc.). The latter, 
a less architectural arrangement, is certainly the 
less happy of the two. In other chairs the arms 
are not set back, but thrown out (Figs. 63 and 64) ; 

1 With a few exceptions certain small "cabriolet " chairs, such 
as the elegant example of Fig. 58, have no manchettes. 



ARM-CHAIRS 95 

the consoles start from the legs, but at once curve 
backwards and outwards, and the consequent 
twisting and expansion of the mouldings has a 
most excellent effect. 

Chairs for the writing-table were made in a 
special shape ; the backs were very low and 
rounded " gondola-shape," as it was called ; in 
plan they are sometimes circular (Fig. 68), and 
in this case they are occasionally made to revolve 
on a pivot ; sometimes they are rather singiilar 
in shape, semicircular at the back, and curved in 
front with one convex curve between two 
concave ones ; these chairs have three legs in 
front and a single leg behind, like the toilet-chairs 
which we shall describe presently. They are 
generally mounted with morocco. 

The most characteristic Louis XV" seat was the 
hergere (Figs. 69 to 75) invented about 1720. It 
is a wide, low, deep arm-chair, very capacious. 
These hergeres were made in a variety of forms, but 
the essential features of a hergere were the sohd 
sides {joues fleines) — that is to say, without voids 
between the arms and the seat — and the movable 
cushion on the seat, the '' mattress," which was 
stuffed with down in such a manner as to be very 
elastic, and laid upon a foundation of interlaced 
bands of webbing.* The most seductive names 

^ Two of the bergires here reproduced (Figs. 73 and 74) are 
oaly included because of the interest of their wooden framework. 
Towards the end of the nineteenth century they were disfigured 
by upholstery with elastics, which destroy their character. The 
same remark appUes to the arm-chairs. Figs. 53, 54, 56-58, and the 
sofa. Fig. 70. 



96 LOUIS XV FURNITURE 

were given to the various types of bergeressisihey 
made their appearance : obligeante, convalescente^ 
boudoir^ etc. There are three principal types : 
that which is closely akin to the ordinary arm- 
chair (Figs. 69 to 71) ; that of which the general 
line is more enveloping, more rounded, more of 
the gondola shape (Figs. 72 to 74) ; and the 
" confessional shape," the back of which is 
furnished with two ears, serving to support the 
head (Fig. 75). 

The stuffs with which seats were covered were 
very numerous, and fashion often introduced new 
ones. For costly seats the material most used 
was tapestry, made principally at Beauvais, the 
motives on which were bouquets and running 
bands of flowers, draperies with cords and tassels, 
La Fontaine's fables, pastorals, monkey-pieces, 
and pagodas. 

A much cheaper sort of tapestry was woven at 
Elbeuf and at Rouen, under the name of bergame, 
the designs for this were chiefly stripes and 
chevrons in graduated tones ; it was used to cover 
seats in anterooms. 

Then there was tapestry worked with the needle 
on canvas, in coarse or fine stitch, or a combina- 
tion of the two. This was generally made at 
home by women working by the day under the 
direction of the lady of the house. The greatest 
ladies in the land, beginning with the Queen and 
her daughters, practised the art. There had been 
a terrible quarrel between Louis XV and Madame 
de Mailly in connection v^th tapestry ; one day 



UPHOLSTERY STUFFS 97 

the fair countess was so busy counting her stitches 
that she did not hear the King when he spoke to 
her. Greatly irritated, he snatched the frame 
from her hand, drew a penknife from his pocket, 
and cut the tapestry into four pieces. This did 
not prevent the King, some months later, from 
indulging the caprice of the perennially bored 
person by starting to make tapestry himself ; it 
is unnecessary to say that his courtiers vied with 
each other in imitating him, and that it became a 
fashionable masculine pursuit. 

The richest, the most admired, and also the most 
durable of the silken materials other than velvet 
for covering seats was damask. The finest sorts, 
three-coloured damask and Genoa damask, were 
worth from fifteen to twenty livressLii ell of twenty 
inches in width. It took two ells to cover a large 
arm-chair, one ell and a quarter for a cabriolet. 
The most popular colour by far was crimson ; then 
came green ; yellow and blue were less fashionable : 
on yellow damask the nails had to be silver-plated. 

Taffeta, the thickest variety of which is gros de 
Tours, was reserved for summer furniture ; loose 
covers were made of it to slip on in summer over 
tapestry or damask chairs, " unless," as Bimont 
says, " our citizens choose to have duplicate 
chairs." Pekin, a kind of silk painted with flowers, 
was also a summer material ; Madame de Pompa- 
dour preferred it to all others. Finally, a good 
deal of satin was used, plain, striped, brocaded or 
embroidered, and moire, less fragile, but rather 
harsh in appearance. 

VII G 



98 LOUIS XV FURNITURE 

The handsomest of the velvets was the cut 
velvet of Genoa, a costly, sumptuous, and incom- 
parably splendid material, v^hich cost no less than 
fifty livres an ell ; then stamped velvets, and 
velvets with stripes and ribs, were also in vogue ; 
it is, indeed, a mistake to think that striped 
stuffs belong more particularly to the Louis XVI 
period. All were more expensive than damask ; 
upholsterers charged from twenty-four to thirty-six 
livres per ell ; but Bimont gives us this amusing 
detail : " Velvet which has served as dresses for 
women and coats for men is used to cover bergeres. 
Queen's arm-chairs, cabriolets, and even Duchess 
chairs." 

After these beautiful stuffs in pure silk came the 
mixtures and the stuffs made of other materials. 
Brocatelle is as pretty as its name, with its satiny 
ground, patterned with freshly coloured flowers ; 
gayer than damask, it is cheaper and less durable, 
being a mixture of silk and thread. It was not so 
popular under Louis XV as at the end of the 
century. Then there were moire of thread and 
silk, damask with a thread foundation, Bruges 
satin or sham satin, which was interwoven with 
thread like satinade^ and was often made with 
bands or stripes of very vivid colour in strong 
contrast : green and crimson, crimson and jon- 
quil, yellow striped with blue ; siamoise, a mixture 
of thread and wool, with which squares to lay on 
the seats of straw chairs were covered ; camlet, 
plain, watered or striped, made of wool, or wool 
and thread mixed : " this is the most worthy of 



USEFUL MATERIALS 99 

stuffs after moire, but it is rather subject to 
the attacks of worms." 

For seats in constant use, on which costly and 
fragile stuffs would have been out of place, there 
was moquette, a velvety woollen material, generally 
woven in bands, which was used indifferently 
for carpets and table-covers, hangings, and dining 
room, anteroom and library chairs. Those high- 
backed chairs covered with striped material 
which appear so often in Chardin's pictures were 
of moquette. Tripe was a variety of moquette, with 
a hairy surface of wool on a foundation of hemp. 
Utrecht velvet, plain or gauffered, which was still 
a novelty about 1750, was used for the same 
purpose. The goat's-hair of which it was made 
was said to rub the silk or velvet garments of those 
who used it ; but, on the other hand, it was prac- 
tically everlasting. "Painted canvases," in reality 
cotton materials, were printed -with black outline 
patterns, and the contours were then filled in by 
hand with colours ; these were, of course, summer 
stuffs. 

Every one who acquires Louis XV chairs has a 
somewhat delicate problem to solve : how to 
cover them. And should they be already covered, 
are we to accept the statements of the dealer, who 
is certain to assure us that the covers are authentic, 
and " of the period " ? It may be roundly 
asserted that no arm-chair nearly two centuries 
old wears its original dress ; it has been re-covered 
at least four or five times. What avatars it has 
experienced, from its natal damask to the frag- 



loo LOUIS XV FURNITURE 

ments of Flemish verdure, badly pieced together, 
with which the dealer in antiquities absurdly 
endowed it a week before selling it ! Memorable 
among the intermediate stages are those bands 
of woolwork mounted between strips of green or 
black cloth, the hideous industry of two or three 
generations of worthy provincial ladies. What 
is to be done then ? In the first place, we must 
firmly refuse the said fragments of verdure, which 
are an absurdity ; we must get authentic Beauvais, 
or old needlework tapestries, if possible ; there are 
some well-preserved or carefully mended specimens 
which are still in good condition, but the price of 
these is exorbitant. We must be on our guard, 
above all, against " antique " damasks. Nothing 
is easier to " fake " than stuffs ; the action of the 
sun, of time, of dust, of wear, of rusty nails, are 
all imitated to perfection. The one thing that 
is not easily reproduced, be it said in passing, is 
the necessary irregularity of ancient stuffs, which 
were woven by hand. When antique silks are 
really antique (for everything is possible), they 
are rubbed, burnt by the light, and almost falling 
to pieces ; there would be no wear in them. We 
must therefore resign ourselves to covering old 
wood with new material ; admirable reproduc- 
tions of ancient stuffs are made nowadays ; for 
modest furniture^ the whole range of velvets, with 
bands, stripes, ribbed, or chine effects, is open to 
us, and the use of these could never result in any 
grave error of style. 

We may now pass on to cane chairs. These 



STRAW CHAIRS loi 

were made in the same shapes as the upholstered 
chairs (Figs. ']6 to 8i) ; the frames were of 
varnished or painted beech, cherry, or walnut, 
and sometimes of gilded wood ; in this case, the 
cane trellis was also gilded. In summer the cane 
was left bare ; in winter square cushions of 
siamoise and even of damask, fastened at the 
corners by ribbons either tied or hooked, were 
laid upon the seats and backs. Cane arm-chairs 
often had morocco pads on the arms, and the 
square cushions were then covered with leather 
to match. It must be mentioned that these 
seats were very unequal in height ; the lowest 
were intended for thick mattress-cushions, which 
remained on them permanently ; the others for 
thin padded squares ; we must remember this 
when we cushion them. 

Toilet-chairs (Figs. 80 and 81), a very charming 
type of Louis XV chairs, are always mounted with 
cane. As powder would have soon spoilt material, 
they were generally cushioned with morocco 
squares. Those belonging to the daughters of 
Louis XV were covered, some with red morocco, 
others with lemon morocco. 

Straw chairs (Figs. 82 to 86) made a la capucine 
— that is to say, turned, and put together rather 
roughly — were nevertheless very durable, for great 
numbers of them still exist. The commonest, 
which are as a fact kitchen-chairs, are very slightly 
turned, rudimentary in structure, and owe their 
interest merely to the design of the two or three 
carved traverses of their backs, which is often 



I02 LOUIS XV FURNITURE 

extremely graceful. The most frequent motive 
of the Louis XV period consists of two figures 
like notes of interrogation set one against the 
other lengthwise (Fig. 86). The arm-chairs 
either have consoles rising from the legs or, more 
frequently, set further back on the seat. The 
two bars, on front, back, and sides, are generally 
curved in front (Fig. 83) ; sometimes they are 
replaced by X-shaped crossbars from leg to leg 
(Fig. 85).^ Some less rustic examples (Fig. 82) 
had " doe's-feet " and curved lines everywhere ; 
these latter were extremely elegant. 

They were sometimes furnished with two flat, 
square cushions (Fig. 83), sometimes with loose 
covers. The straw chairs with which Madame 
de Pompadour did not disdain to furnish her 
bedroom at Marly had square cushions of striped 
blue and white Rouen siamoise. We see in 
Greuze's Malediction ■paternelle how these square 
cushions were fastened (to the father's arm-chair). 
As to the loose covers, which were padded and 
buttoned at the back and seat, unless they had a 
separate seat-cushion as in a hergere^ they came 
do\vn to the first bar, leaving the lower one bare, 
and they were either nailed to the frame or 
fastened by cords. 

The Louis XV period perfected and multiplied 
chaises lovgues and sofas, inventions of the pre- 
ceding reign. There is a whole gamut of inter- 
mediaries between the lounge, the chaise longue, 

1 This chair, wliich is more carefully made than the others, 
was decorated vnth carvings long after it was made. 



COUCHES 103 

and the sofa, which makes classification difficult. 
There were, for instance, veritable beds, " Turkish 
beds," which had three backs, and differed from 
sofas only in dimensions. 

The lounge, or rest-bed, which we reproduce 
(Fig. 87) serves a dual purpose. It is long enough 
to allow the occupant to lie stretched out at 
full length, and has a back high enough to 
support a seated person with legs extended. The 
end at the foot is movable. Such a piece of fur- 
niture was, of course, fitted with loose cushions : 
a mattress of down or horsehair, a round 
cushion (rondin*), and a flat, square one. Others, 
without the end-pieces, had a jointed back, 
which could be adjusted at various angles. The 
turquoise had two back-pieces of equal size, 
a mattress, two round and two square cushions ; 
the veilleuse * or " English bed " was a large 
ottoman which could be used as a bed upon 
occasion, with special bedding which was con- 
cealed in an adjoining cupboard. The sofa was a 
couch sometimes as much as ten feet long with a 
loose mattress. The 'paphose and the sultane 
were variations on these seats. 

The chaise longue, properly so called, was the 
duchesse* which had a back curved like a 
gondola, and a mattress. The duchesse hrisee* 
was in three pieces, one of which was a hergere^ the 
second a stool with two concave sides, and the last a 
low hergere, called a foot-end {bout de pied). Another 
kind of bout de pied brought up close to a bergere 
transformed it into a chaise longue in two parts. 



I04 LOUIS XV FURNITURE 

Long before the time of Madame Recamier 
the indolent belles of the day were fond of receiv- 
ing en deshabille, reclining on their " turquoises " 
or " duchesses " ; for languishing beauty with 
weary attitudes already existed, side by side with 
the more general type of sparkling and mutinous 
beauty ; but what seems strange at a period of so 
much licence, these ladies, far from showing their 
bare feet, were expected to conceal them with a 
coverlet of embroidered silk as a concession to 
decency. 

The type of sofa known as a canafe was merely 
an improved kind of bench ; it differs little from 
a mediaeval bench with a back. There were some 
of small size, on which it was difficult to sit beside 
a lady in panniers without disappearing under her 
skirts, and some of monumental dimensions, with 
eight or nine " doe's-feet " legs to support them. 
Some are merely enlarged arm-chairs (Fig. 90), 
others are like three arm-chairs made into one 
(Fig. 88) ; they have side-arms like arm-chairs, 
set back behind the legs, or the upholstered 
cheeks and ears of the " confessional " hergere ; 
others were " basket-shaped," and were called 
" ottomans " (Fig. 91). " The ottoman," says 
Bimont, " is the same thing as the sofa, save that 
it has no end-pieces ; but in default of these, the 
two ends of the back curve round, forming a semi- 
circle. Two pillows are placed at the two ends 
of the ottoman ; they are edged with a double 
gimp like the mattress of the seat, and are finished 
with a tassel at each corner." 



BEDS 105 

The stool (tahouret), the all-important seat 
which caused so much ink to flow during the 
ceremonious century of Louis XIV, was very- 
much neglected under Louis XV. A few were 
made, nevertheless, which have doe's-feet legs 
and a curved frame with florets round the seat. 
In her bedroom at the Chateau de Saint-Hubert, 
Madame de Pompadour had a stool covered with 
damask, which was also a kennel for the little dogs 
from which she w^as never parted. 

Finally, the seventeenth-century /orw gradually 
became the bench {banquette), " an insignificant 
seat placed in anterooms, halls, etc." The 
benches were covered with moquette or Utrecht 
velvet ; others of a more elegant kind, covered 
with velvet or damask, were used at balls, concerts, 
and all kinds of assemblies. 

We shall have little to say concerning beds, for 
Louis XV beds are very rare. This is owing to 
the fact that for the most part the woodwork was 
not visible, but was entirely concealed either by 
draperies nailed to the frame, or loose covers. If 
they were rather less enveloped in curtains than 
in preceding centuries (for the rooms were less 
draughty), they were still encumbered wdth the 
looped and draped hangings which are anathema 
to modern hygiene. 

The ancient four-post bed gradually dis- 
appeared during the reign of Louis XV, and the 
shapes most in vogue were the Duchess bed, the 
Angel bed, and the Polish bed {lit duchesse, lit 



io6 LOUIS XV FURNITURE 

(Tange, and lit a la 'polonaise). The first had a fiat 
tester, as long as the bed itself, surrounded by a 
scalloping, two narrow lengths of stuff falling 
straight on either side of the head, a single end 
with a curving top covered with stuff, and a 
counterpane covering the sides of the bed entirely, 
and falling to the ground. The " angel bed " 
had a shorter tester, two looped side draperies, 
and two similar ends, unless that at the foot were 
somewhat lower. The " Polish bed " had also 
two ends, and no tester ; the four posts 
supported four iron rods which curved inwards 
and upheld a curving dome or baldachuin, from 
which fell four curtains, looped up at the corners. 

With good luck it is still possible to pick up a 
charming " angel bedstead," especially in the 
provinces. The very beautiful Provencal bed we 
reproduce (Fig. 93), which is purely Louis XV in 
its Hnes, was acquired some years back from a local 
dealer for an absurdly small sum. There are also 
some Provencal beds (Fig. 92) which have one 
end higher than the other, or no footboard, but 
only two posts at the foot, continuing the 
legs. 

Screens, like curtained beds, were no longer so 
essential, since rooms had become smaller and 
warmer ; they did not disappear, but they 
became much smaller ; made with three or four 
leaves, they were reduced to the proportions of 
fire-screens. The wooden framework was rarely 
visible ; the leaves, often curved at the top, were 
covered with tapestry, embroideries, or vdth some 



FIRE-SCREENS 107 

material, sometimes matching that of the chairs 
and hangings ; sometimes, again, with painted 
canvas, Coromandel lacquer, and very often with 
" India paper " patterned with flowers and figures, 
and even vdth English or French wall-papers. 
Mirrors were sometimes let into the upper part. 

Fire-screens were covered in the same manner. 
The classic type (Fig. 94) had a double frame, 
mounted on two supports, in which the sash, 
covered with stuff, tapestry, or paper, could run 
up and down freely. It was pulled up like a 
carriage window by means of a silk braid fixed 
to the lower part and terminating in a leaden 
drop ; this, acting as a counterweight, held the 
sash at the desired height, making it possible 
to warm the feet and legs without scorching the 
face. 

Some, such as the screen with a shelf of Fig. 95, 
were more elaborate than this. A screen covered 
with India paper, for instance, had a jointed shelf 
of Chinese lacquer, which could be let down by 
means of two metal arms to receive a cup of tea, 
an inkstand, a work-bag, a case of implements, or 
inclined so as to form a reading-desk. A screen 
of this sort was furnished with two adjustable 
branches with candlesticks.^ The lower shelf 
between the supports was used as a footstool. 
Just such a screen protects the youthful dreamer 
in Chardin's picture, V Instant de la meditation. 

The screens " made in the manner of secre- 

^ At the top of the uprights of the screen, Fig. 95, the square 
sockets into which the branches Rtted are visible. 



io8 LOUIS XV FURNITURE 

taries " were provided with a fixed shelf to which 
was added a Httle drawer with an inkstand. 

Much might be written about clocks, which 
are among the most interesting of all pieces of 
furniture ; but I must keep this enumeration, 
already over long, within bounds. The tall clock 
with a case was an invention of the seventeenth 
century, made even before the advent of the long 
pendulum ; the end it served was the protec- 
tion of the weights ; the case was then always 
narrow, with uninterrupted vertical lines. When 
the long pendulum was introduced, it was 
necessary to give it room to swing to and fro. 
The finest clocks are those the form of which 
adapts itself frankly to this exigency by expanding 
a little just below the centre of the case. This 
form is pleasing, because it is rigorously deter- 
mined by an organic necessity, and it lends itself 
admirably to decoration with gilded bronzes. A 
clock is almost a living thing, and it is well that 
it should convey the impression of life both to 
the eye and to the ear ; this was why the excellent 
artisans of the past instinctively made an opening 
in their cases, through which one can see the 
solemn swing of the large brass disc. Fine time- 
pieces of the Louis XV period are admirable 
objects. The one we reproduce has superb 
bronzes, a firm and simple elegance of lines, 
amplitude in the masses, judgment in the asym- 
metry, which, like the lightness of the motives, 
increases gradually, as is logical, in its course from 
base to summit. 



PICTURE-FRAMES 109 

In contrast to this we have a simple country- 
clock (Fig. 97) in pine and oak, the decoration of 
which is very graceful. It is by no means crushed 
by its beautiful neighbour. 

We shall have passed nearly every kind of furni- 
ture in review when we have have said a word 
about frames or, as they were more generally 
called, " borders " for pictures and mirrors. 
Under Louis XV these were always of carved and 
gilded wood, and not of plaster, as now ; hence 
they had a delicacy of profile and a purity of line 
unknown in these days. Their rectangular shape 
is always masked more or less ^ ; the top, which 
was more decorated and more important than 
the rest, took the name of " capital " ; it was 
either of open-work or its gilded ornaments were 
reheved against a painted background. One 
which we reproduce (Fig. 10 1) is very amusing by 
reason of the exaggerations into which a desire 
for lightness and asymmetry has led the maker ; 
in the result it is not ungraceful. 

1 It is entirely concealed in the first two examples (Figs. 98 
and 99) ; they date from the early days of the style. 



CHAPTER VII : A SET OF 
LOUIS XV FURNITURE 

We now come to the question, how are we to get 
furniture for our houses such as we have been 
describing ? From dealers ? In pubHc sale- 
rooms ? In the houses of the peasants we visit 
during our holiday rambles ? Some happy finds 
may still be made in the remoter parts of the 
provinces, though they are few and far between. 
But beware ! In Normandy, and in Brittany 
more especially, the peasant is often more astute 
than the buyer ; very often his old dresser, 
blackened with venerable dirt, worm-eaten in the 
legs, rubbed at the corners, and peppered all over 
with minute holes came to him last winter from a 
faking establishment at Rouen or Quimper. The 
maker and the rustic will share the profits, a new 
ancestral dresser wall take the place of the other — 
and no one will pity the dupe. 

Beware also — beware, indeed, above all ! — of 
the " ruined gentleman " to whose stronghold 
some tout has cunningly enticed you, and who, 
cut to the heart, is obliged to part with a few of 
his heirlooms. Beware, again, of the little dealer 
with the dark and squalid shop, where you — for 
you are a person of perception ! — have discovered 
some fine thing, which he, the ignoramus, had 
left to moulder behind pitch-pine wardrobes and 
plush divans. Beware of all and sundry, for in 

1 10 



FORGERIES iii 

spite of all your caution you will yet be taken in 
now and again. 

What are you to do then ? Interesting finds 
are still to be made at public sales in small towns 
where one or two old pieces may have strayed by 
chance into a house full of vulgar furniture ; but 
it is useless to expect anything of the sort in Paris ; 
the dealers are too expert and too assiduous in their 
visits to the Hotel Drouot to let anything good 
escape them. The safest plan is to apply to some 
honest and reasonable dealer — there are more of 
these than is supposed — and to pay the actual 
value of things. You must also try to acquire a 
little knowledge and to distinguish between true 
and false antiquities. The art is hardly to be 
taught, and there is nothing like practice ; but 
perhaps a few summary hints may be of use. 

It is a principle with forgers — and this is, of 
course, a truism — only to forge with a view to profit. 
It is a long and minute, and hence a costly busi- 
ness to make a copy of an ancient original. Con- 
sequently the more simple pieces of furniture — 
and as I have aheady said, these are not the least 
beautiful — are much more likely to be genuine than 
the very elaborate ones ; for if they were faked in a 
satisfactory manner the game would not be worth 
the candle. And there is not only the work to 
consider, but the material, which, as well as 
handicraft, costs a great deal more now than in the 
past. How many petty dealers would be able 
to get the walnut-wood necessary for copying 
some fine antique cupboard ? We shall do well, 



112 LOUIS XV FURNITURE 

therefore, to distrust oak and prefer walnut. As 
to massive mahogany — I mean real mahogany of 
fine quality — it fetches such prices that a simple 
piece of furnitiire made of it will almost certainly 
be genuine. It is here that the Louis XV Style 
triumphs, for its undulating lines entail a terrible 
waste of wood. We must therefore be on the 
look-out primarily for the tell-tale economy of 
labour, and more especially of material. In 
panelled furniture, if the panels are thin, and above 
all, if they are made with two planks joined together, 
and not vnth a solid piece of wood, let us beware ! 
Very often the breadth of a piece of wood will 
betray the modern form of plank, mechanical and 
uniform. 

Joins in the wood are also very significant ; 
those of the past were always, save in drawers, 
made with tenons and mortices, boldly cut right 
into the wood, and then fitted without glue, very 
precisely, and finished off with good pegs cut by 
the apprentice, and more or less square, whereas 
the modern ones are machine-made, and are 
always identical and cylindrical. 

Finally, the appearance of the wood, if it 
has not been painted and then scraped and 
pickled, will give us valuable information. Sur- 
faces that have been rubbed vdth dusters for a 
century and a half, and over which many hands 
have passed, present to the eye, and above all to 
the touch, a mellow, unctuous surface which 
one soon learns to recognize and which is not 
to be imitated. 



HOW TO FURNISH 113 

What furniture should be chosen for a given 
flat or house, and with what accessories should 
they be surrounded in order to constitute an 
harmonious whole, which, without being a 
historical reconstruction, will avoid glaring an- 
achronisms ? The problem varies enormously, 
for the conditions are so diverse. The aspirant 
has only a certain sum to spend, has to furnish 
rooms of a certain character, has some furniture 
already, and personal tastes which have a right to 
exist — ^not to mention the taste of his or her 
husband or wife. In short, it is only possible to 
give the most general indications, a sort of ideal 
plan to which we may approach more or less 
according to our means and our individual 
preferences. 

The most diihcult interior in which to arrange 
old furniture, and notably Louis XV furniture, 
is a Parisian flat, because of the smallness of the 
rooms, their lowness, and their decorations, the 
ugliness of which is no less depressing than trivial. 
Let us try, nevertheless. We ^mU. begin with the 
drawing-room. 

Given the dimensions and the actual use of 
most Parisian drawing-rooms, it is clear that they 
have much less afhnity vdth the reception-rooms, 
or great drawing-rooms of the past, than with 
the " company-rooms " and " conversation 
cabinets." We will therefore take these for our 
models. If they were panelled, it was with 
natural oak, polished — we are not likely to find 
this in a modern Parisian flat ! — or they were 

VII H 



114 LOUIS XV FURNITURE 

painted to imitate wood with a plain colour, 
jonquil, lemon, rather a deep sea-green, but not 
white. The panels were sometimes hung with 
stuff, which, if plain, was generally red and out- 
lined with a gold gimp. But many other colours 
were popular, especially yellow and green, and 
after these striped and flowered materials. The 
following is the advertisement of the furniture 
of a " company-room " which was offered for 
sale in 1768 : "A charming set of drawing-room 
furniture, namely : a very handsome chandelier, 
perfectly new hangings of green and white moire ; 
a fine ottoman ; two hergeres and six arm-chairs 
of green and white Utrecht velvet, the wood- 
work painted to match ; a six-leaved screen, 
matching the hangings ; a moquette carpet with 
lozenges on a white ground, surrounded by 
garlands in shades of green, with a poppy in each ; 
a table of white Italian marble and violet breccia, 
arched and convex, with a gilded leg^ and two 
fine chimney brackets. Price of the whole, 
100 louis." 

Wall-papers were already in use much more 
than is supposed. Diderot wrote in the Encyclo- 
-pcedia : " This kind of wall-decoration had for a 
long time been confined to country folks and the 
humbler classes of Paris. . . . But towards the 
close of the seventeenth century, it was brought 
to such perfection and beauty that there was no 
house in Paris, however magnificent, which had 
not some room hung with it, and very agreeably 

^ This was a console table. 



WALL-PAPERS 115 

decorated by it." This paper was known as : 
-papier de tontisse, or -papier drappe, or again,^^pjVr 
d Angleterre (i.e. flock papers) — that is to say, a 
species of paper which was laid on a board, 
covered with a design, and coloured by means of 
the waste of cloth-clippings reduced to powder. 
It was an imitation of cut velvet, Utrecht velvet, 
and even damask and chintz. The motives were 
bouquets united by ribbons and laid upon stripes, 
baskets and garlands of flowers " arranged in the 
most gallant fashion," Chinese cartouches with 
figures. Modern paper manufacturers continue 
to reproduce these Louis XV flock-papers. 

It is noteworthy that the curtains are absent 
in the above enumeration. This is because they 
were different from the other hangings ; they 
were often of white cotton with borders of 
coloured linen. The window-blinds were of 
muslin. 

We should try to have a sofa, arm-chairs, and 
ordinary chairs covered with a material to match 
that on the walls ; one or two hergeres^ which will 
look well near the fire-place ; a console-table to 
put under a mirror — if we have one — facing that 
over the fire-place ; an inlaid commode, prefer- 
ably on high legs ; in the angles, two " corners " 
with their shelves ; a mahogany table of fair 
size, and another little movable table. x\s to the 
carpet, it is quite certain that we shall not be able 
to get an old French one, so we must be content 
with a plain -moquette, an Anatolian, or a Persian 
carpet ; Eastern carpets were in great favour in 



ii6 LOUIS XV FURNITURE 

the eighteenth century, and they " go with 
everything." 

The question of hghting is a thorny one. The 
ideal method would be to have either an old 
chandelier, of crystal or gilded bronze, or a 
" glass lantern," square or cylindrical, with 
branches of china flowers, and two girandoles 
right and left of the chimney-piece, and to burn 
nothing but candles. Candle-light is delicious 
— ^velvety, lively, and palpitating ; it calls forth 
such exquisitely warm, soft vibrations from old 
gilding, silks, lacquers, and polished woods, 
whereas our electric lights are so hard and dead ! 
But we must resign ourselves to the inevitable ! 
In spite of the anachronism, and the fact that 
watts and volts are very incongruous with 
ormolu and china flowers, we shall no doubt 
install false candles with electric bulbs in gilded 
sockets. 

Shall we be able to put a real Louis XV clock 
on our chimney-piece ? This would be too 
much to hope ; they are so scarce. But why 
not a good reproduction of a bust by Houdon or 
Cafheri ? Then two Chinese vases vvdth bouquets 
of china flowers, the stalks and leaves of copper 
lacquered in natural colours, those " Vincennes 
flowers " of which Madame de Pompadour was 
so fond ; d'Argenson tells us that she bought 
800,000 livres worth, at a livre a flower. They 
were used for epergnes which looked like great 
flowering bushes ; mirrors were encircled with 
them, and ladies even wore them in their hair 



ORNAMENTS 117 

and in their bodices. We need not fear to put 
these " Vincennes " (or " Dresden ") flowers 
everywhere, if we have a fancy for them. 

Nor need we hesitate to scatter ornaments 
and knick-knacks everywhere, for there was a 
craze for them at this period. \\c shall not, 
perhaps, go so far as painted ostrich eggs or 
branches of coral mounted in silver-gilt, but 
china animals on the chimney-piece, the corner- 
shelves, and the tables would be very " Louis- 
Quinze." We may again invoke the highest 
authority, that of Madame de Pompadour. On 
one occasion, in 175 1, she received a consignment 
from Duvaux of " a dovecote vdth pigeons on the 
roof, mounted on a terrace with two figures and 
other pigeons ; four sheep lying down, six duck- 
lings, two cocks, four pigeons, six cygnets, two 
guinea-fowls, four turkeys, and a stag lying 
down." 

But, above all, we may draw upon the resources 
of the Far East without fear of abuse ; its porce- 
lains, lacquers, jades, enamels, and little bronzes 
will be an inexhaustible treasure-house. Grotesque 
figures (magots) were almost de rigueur on chimney- 
pieces. "'Upon my word,' said the Marquis, 
' that set of ornaments you have on your 
chimney-shelf is magnificent ; the figures are 
most striking, especially this one ; it and your 
fool of a husband are as like as two peas in a 
pod.' " ^ You must have a screen of China paper or 
stuft" in front of the fire-place, which in summer 

^ Angola, An Indian Story (1546). 



ii8 LOUIS XV FURNITURE 

must be filled in with a " fire-place paper." This 
is a covered frame, which, in spite of its name, 
may be made of stuff or paper indifferently. 

On the walls there must be no pictures, or at 
any rate very few. These were generally hung 
in a special gallery, and painting in drawing-rooms 
was relegated to door-heads ; but a few engravings 
by Jeaurat or Cochin in old frames would be 
admissible. Above all, do not follow the example 
of some contemporary amateurs and introduce a 
Neo-Impressionist canvas, blazing with cadmiums 
and cobalts, into a Louis XV or Louis XVI 
interior. 

In a little sitting-room, or boudoir, a lady's 
writing-table with a drop front would be very 
appropriate ; then a work-table {chiffonniere), 
a Duchess chair, or a miniature sofa, and one or 
two cabriolet chairs covered with light broca- 
telle. 

In the study library, which, as Blondel tells us, 
" should have an air of virtue and simplicity," 
books will occupy plain shelves, without any pre- 
tensions to style ; a writing-table, an arm-chair 
with three legs in front, upholstered with leather, 
arm-chairs with low seats and high backs, some 
large chairs covered with leather or moquette, and, 
finally, a secretary-cupboard, will furnish it very 
completely. 

Dining-rooms were very sparingly furnished 
in the time of Louis XV. Large cupboards 
simulating doors were made in the walls, which 
were panelled and painted white ; console-tables 



THE DINING-ROOM 119 

were used for the service, and, in a niche, there 
was generally an ornamental waterspout with a 
basin, where the servants rinsed glasses in full 
view of the guests ; at most there was a low com- 
mode against the wall. This would not do in a 
modern dining-room ; we should be obliged to 
have a sideboard, a serving-table, and shelves for 
glass and silver. The best way of furnishing 
this room, perhaps, would be to borrow its furni- 
ture from the kitchen of an Arlesian farm-house ; 
although rustic, the joiner's work of Aries is so 
graceful that it is not out of place in the most 
refined interior. As, for the best of reasons, we 
cannot have a Loms XV dining-table v^th ad- 
justable leaves, we will choose a table of the most 
neutral kind, preferably round, and will cover it 
with a cloth which will hide it as much as possible 
The seats shall be cane-chairs, on which we may 
lay flat, square cushions of leather or velvet. A 
credence-sideboard, on which gilded wicker- 
baskets, filled with fruit shall stand permanently, 
will be very " Louis XV " ; a piece of engraved 
Oriental brass (an Indian brass kettle) and a 
vegetable dish of gaily coloured Marseilles china 
may be added. Above the credence-table, in 
accordance with traditional arrangement, must 
hang the pewter-shelves. Those of the Museo7i 
Arlaten (Fig. 15) are much too large for a town 
flat, but smaller ones, very graceful in design, are 
to be had. Opposite the sideboard the kneading- 
trough (Fig. 12) might be used as a service-table ; 
it might be surmounted by the bread-bin (Fig. 17), 



I20 LOUIS XV FURNITURE 

which will be useless, but may be allowed a place, 
seeing how decorative it is with its turned 
balusters ; it might even be flanked hy the salt- 
box (Fig. 1 6) and the flour-box (Fig. i8) which 
was used to flour fish before frying them. A little 
further, a glazed cupboard, an abbreviated press 
in which the more costly glass articles were kept, 
may be fixed to the walls. 

This manner of furnishing a Parisian dining- 
room is certainly questionable from the logical 
standpoint, but it is graceful, and, on the whole, 
practical ; besides, it would be difficult to find 
any sideboard but the Arlesian credence-table at 
once small enough and elegant looking ; and if 
we accept the credence-table, it entails all the 
rest. 

If the dining-room is fairly large, a medium- 
sized cupboard would be very useful there, though, 
strictly speaking, this is not the place for it. But 
never dishonour a fine old piece of furniture by 
tearing out its oak or walnut panels to replace 
them by glass ; this would be as bad as using a 
kneading-trough as a jardiniere or a bread-bin as 
a music-stand ! 

In the bedroom the bed is the object that will 
present most difficulty. If, as is very likely, we 
are unable to find one with the woodwork showing, 
we cannot do better than drape with loose 
covers of some good material a bedstead with 
curved head and footboards copied by a cabinet- 
maker from some old model. Then we must 
have a wardrobe, not too large, of walnut or cherry, 



THE BEDROOM 121 

so that the wood may present a cheerful surface ; 
a commode with three drawers or a chiifonier, or 
both if possible ; a little looking-glass in a gilt 
frame over the commode ; a dressing-table, a 
special toilet-chair, with flat, square cushions ; 
or, failing a dressing-table, a plain table of some 
sort with muslin draperies and a swing looking- 
glass. An open night-table, with a good marble 
top. A comfortable hergere^ or perhaps a straw 
arm-chair with its square cushions ; a duchesse, or 
lounge, if space permits. The hangings should 
be of some light, cheerful material — for instance, 
blue and white or red and white striped cotton. 
The bed-curtains will have to be suppressed, for 
hygiene is uncompromising. Then it will be 
necessary to have a dressing-room, for a modern 
washing-stand vv^ould be strangely out of place 
with the rest. 

If we have a country house to furnish, our task 
will be much easier ; we shall have more room for 
the large pieces of furniture of the period, and if 
a certain genial simplicity is not displeasing to us, 
real peasant furniture will be just what we want. 
We may, indeed, have the good luck to buy, to 
inherit, or to rent one of the old French houses of 
the eighteenth century, those dignified and attrac- 
tive dwellings, with their large casements with 
little greenish panes and semicircular heads, their 
wide staircases wdth hammered iron balustrades, 
their lofty rooms with painted panelHng, their 
beautiful openwork iron fittings to the inner 
doors, their old glasses with tarnished quicksilver 



122 LOUIS XV FURNITURE 

and gilding reddened by time. What an enchant- 
ing pastime it will be to furnish such a house in 
the ancient fashion ! Above all, the most interest- 
ing thing to do, as far as possible, would be to look 
about for local furniture that has the unaffected 
good taste of the district. 

In such a house the large old cupboards would 
be welcome everywhere, and we could begin by 
installing one in the hall, where also we might 
have a brass or china fountain, one of those 
enormous decorative stoves of white Lorraine 
china, designed by Cuvillies, one or two console- 
tables, benches, and cane arm-chairs. 

In the drawing-room there would probably be 
painted woodwork ; if not, it would be well to 
hang it with a summery material, cretonne or 
chintz. Chintzes, known as Indian linen, had 
long been in favour at the period, in spite of the 
regulations forbidding their importation, which 
followed one another ineffectually until 1760, 
when Oberkampf founded his famous factory at 
Jouy to imitate them in France. The date 
suffices to show that nearly all these stuffs were 
of the Louis XVI and not the Louis XV period, 
but a great many of the designs are not of any 
very definite style. Old ones are still to be found 
not infrequently in the provinces, but they are 
worn and faded, and in small pieces ; as the 
originals are very carefully reproduced nowadays, 
it is much better to buy new ones. As to furni- 
ture, a good deal will be needed in those immense 
country drawing-rooms in which the whole family 



COUNTRY DINING-ROOM 123 

assembles, and a great variety of pieces might be 
brought together here ; cupboards, under-cup- 
boards, commodes, all kinds of tables ; seats 
covered with chintz like the v^alls ; arm-chairs, 
chairs, sofas, and lounges, either of cane or 
straw, etc. 

The dining-room is more likely to have retained 
its painted woodwork than the drawing-room, 
and it may even have preserved its big corner- 
cupboards. If not, we shall be well advised to 
look out for those corner fittings, which are so 
convenient, so furnishing, and so completely in 
the spirit of the period. If there is no woodwork, 
the walls will be painted in distemper or simply 
whitewashed. A big dresser with four shelves 
would be the most appropriate sideboard ; on 
this we should set our pottery, pewter, a whole 
gamut of vivid colours, and on the top we should 
perch pitchers of glazed earthenware or brass 
jars ; the walls, too, might be decorated -with old 
china, but of the common kind ; this is always 
pleasing to the eye by its colour and contours. 
The chairs would be of cane or straw, without 
any cushions ; tables, consoles, or low cupboards 
would be placed along the walls at intervals to 
facilitate the service. 

The bedrooms would be furnished very much 
as in town, but in a more rustic fashion, and they 
would nearly always be large enough for the most 
capacious wardrobes or cupboards. Here, again, 
chintz or cretonne would be the most sensible 
choice for hangings. Old four-post peasant beds 



124 LOUIS XV FURNITURE 

would be appropriate ; they belong to no par- 
ticular style, but they are not out of keeping 
with any, and the material of the counterpane 
and tester, if carefully chosen, would bring them 
into harmony with the rest. 

A last question arises : is it necessary to furnish 
in an absolutely homogeneous manner, to have 
everything, for instance, purely Louis XV in 
style down to the smallest details ? Or is it per- 
missible to have a mixture of furniture of different 
periods ? The question has been hotly debated, 
and each of the two theories has its warm partisans. 
It is certain that there is something very satis- 
fying to the reason in a house or a room that gives 
one an impression of complete unity ; it is also 
certain that if one is not quite confident in one's 
own taste, one is less likely to make mistakes if 
one obeys such a rigid rule. But in so doing, one 
increases the already great difficulty of furnishing 
with authentic and well-preserved examples. And 
then there is less scope for individual taste, one's 
surroundings are less intimate, less an emanation 
of one's personality, when one is guided by an 
absolute and external principle, accepted once for 
all. It is all a matter of taste and tact ; two 
objects of the same style may produce a discord, 
when two others of different styles seem to be 
made for each other. A question of species, an 
advocate would say. What is very certain is that 
certain styles of very opposite tendencies cannot 
be juxtaposed ; pure Louis XIV, for instance, 
and Louis XV or Empire. But the eighteenth- 



MIXTURE OF STYLES 125 

century spirit is, on the whole, so obviously the 
same in its main lines, from De Troy to Debucourt 
and from Montesquieu to Chenier, and there 
was so little change in the manners of the period 
that there is much more affinity than difference 
between the men of 1740 and those of 1780. And 
the styles proclaim this affinity like all the rest. 
They are very different, but they harmonize 
wonderfully ; this is the story of many happy 
marriages. 

And then the intransigents forget that the 
subjects of Louis XVI themselves, even those who 
could afford to change their surroundings fre- 
quently, set us an example of eclecticism ; more 
than one inventory attests this, in spite of the 
vague terms used ; but what is perhaps more 
conclusive is that artists themselves when, about 
1775 or 1780, they painted and engraved genre- 
scenes in which they composed the luxurious 
furniture at will, continually juxtaposed objects 
in the two styles. In Moreau the younger's 
Petit Souper, a dumb waiter and a Louis XV lantern 
jostle seats and woodwork in Louis XVI style ; 
in Jeaurat's Le Joli dormir, a young woman is 
dozing in a Louis XV " confessional " arm-chair ; 
her writing-table with its doe's-foot legs is of the 
same period ; a console and a pier-glass in the 
background are pure Louis XVI ; and, better 
still, a little turned stool in the foreground evi- 
dently dates from the middle of the seventeenth 
century. In Beaudoin's Couche de la mariee^ 
which is so entirely Louis XVI on the whole, the 



126 LOUIS XV FURNITURE 

night-table has doe's-foot legs and rococo bronzes ; 
the list might be prolonged indefinitely. 

And when the Revolution broke out we know 
that Marie Antoinette had a rococo clock in her 
bedroom at Trianon. Fortified by such an 
example, let us mix the two styles boldly ; why 
should we be ■plus royalistes que . . . la ReineP 




Figs. 1, i. OAK CUAMBKAM.l-; AM" CURNl.K I'ANHI. 




Fig. 3. SMAI.I, DOOR-PAXEI.S OF LIJIEWOOD 




riG. 4. NORMAN OAK CUPBOARD 



PI. 3 




Fig. .'.. WAI.XUT CUPBOARD MADE IN THE SOUTH-WliST 




I'IG. 0. \VAJ,NUT CUPIUXARI) WITH MOULDINGS MADIv IN THK SOUTII-WlvST 




FIG. 7. PROVE^^gAl. WALNUT CUPBOARD 



Pl.Q 




Fig. 8. SAINTONGE CUPBOARD OF WAI.XUT AND ELM 
(END OF STYLE) 



fl.'l 




Fin. 9. PROVEKgAL UNDKR-CUPBOARD USKD AS SIDF.BOARD, WAJ.NUT 



k2j--V'.V 



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Fic. 10. SAINTONGE UXDERCUPBOARD USED AS SIDEBOARD 
(END OF STYLE) 

PL 




Fir,. 11. liRI/roN WAI.NUT SIDICBOARD, IN TWO PARTS 




Fig. 12. PROVENCAL WAT.KUT KNEADING-TROUGH (END OF STYLE) 




Fir,. 13. ARI.E.SIAN WAI.NUT CREDENCE-SIDEBOARD 






^■;# 



II^BJi. 1[ 



14. DRESSER MADE IN CHAMPAGNE (END OF STYLE 



PI. 11 




PROVKN9AI. WAI<NUT DRlvSSER FOR PKWTKR 

Ft. v. 






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Fig. 19. ROSEWOOD SECRETARY-CUPBOARD 



PI. 14 




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Fig. 21. ROCAII.I.K COMMODE, VENEERED W ITH I'AI.ISAXDER 




fiG. -l-Z. i'VREXEAX WAI.XUT COMMODE 




Fig. 25. CONSOLE COMJIODE, WALNUT 



Fig. 26. CONSOLE COMJIODE, MAHOGANY 



PL 18 




riG. 27. GASCON COMMODK, CHRRRYWOOD 




1-lG. 28. COMMODK, MADE IN I.A GIRONDE, WALNUT 



PI. 19 




Fig. 20. BORDEAUX COMMODE-SECRF.TARY, OF MAHOGAXV 




Fig. 30. .\NJOU COMMODE-SECRETARY, OF WALNUT 



PI. -20 




Fig. 31. I,ARGIi BORDEAUX SKCRETAKY, ,MAHOGANY 



PL 21 




ri(-.. 32. TABLE WITH SUNK TOP, MAHOGANY 




Fio. :J3. TABLE PAINTRD BLACK, WITH STUCCO TOP 




Fig. 34. CARVED TABIJC WITH RIM, WAI.NUT (BEGINNING 
OF THE STYLE) 




FlO. 35. BRETON TABLE, CHERRYWOOD 



PI. 2:5 




Fig. 37. SMAIJ. CARVED TABLE, CHERRYWOOD (BEGINNING OE THE STYLt) 

PL 25 





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Fig. 40. SM.\r,I. CONSOIvE TABLE, CUL-DE-I,AMPE FORM, GII.DED WOOD 

P/. 27 




Fig. 41. TOILET TABLH, P.\US.\NDER .\XU RCSEWOOD 




Fig. 43. SMALL WALNUT TABLE 
FOR THE GAME OF TRI 



Fig. 42. W.\LNUT TABLE 
WITH CHAMFERED CORNERS 
P/. 28 




Fig. 45. SMAI,L BUREAU WITH SCREEN, ASH " FIGURE " 




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Fig. 52. I,ARGK ARM-CHAIR OF PAINTED WOOD WITH AUBUSSON 
TAPESTRY PI. 34 





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Fig. 67. I.ARGK ARMCHAIR OF GILDKD WOOD (KXD OF STYLF,) 

P/. 42 




Fig. 68. RICVOLVING WRITING CHAIR 



PL 43 




Fig. Oi). BICRGERF. WITH CARVICD HACK, GIT.UED WOOD 

n. !4 




pi o 
SI ►-* 




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Fig. 72. " GONDOT.A " BERGh;Rl5;, WALNUT 




Fig. 7J. " CONFESSIONAI, '• BERGERE, WALNUT 



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Fig. 96. CLOCK OF 
PALISANDER WOOD 



Fig. 97. CI^OCK OF 
OAK AND PINE 

PI. 62 





- 



INDEX-GLOSSARY 



Aleppo breccia, 60-82 
" Ambulantes " {see Table) 
" Amortissement en chanfrein " 
(literally, deadening by cham- 
ferX 75 
Anatolian, carpet of, 115 
Angel bed, 105 
Antin, marble of, 60 
Arlaten Museum of Aries, 119 
Arlesian, from the town of Aries, 
South of France, 68, 69, 72, 
73, 120 
Arm-chairs, 3, 25, 32, 38, 92-98 
" k la Capucine " (see 

"Capucine"), loi, 102 
" bergere," 92 
easy, 25 

" en cabriolet," 25, 93 
toilet, 1 01 
Armoires {see Cupboards) 
Auvergne, province of, 72, 73 

Bachaumont, "Memoires 

Secrets 'of, 15 
"Banquette " bench, 105 
Barbier, the " Journal " of, 54, 

61, 94 
Bayle, "Dictionary," 2 
Bean, woodwork, 37 
Beaudoin, the painter, 125 
Beauvais, French town, 96, 100 
Beds, 105-107 

Angel, 105, 106 

Duchess, 105 

English, 103 

Polish, 105, 106 

Provengal, 106 

Veilleuse, 103 
Belle\dlle, suburb of Paris, 40 
Bergame, name of Norman 

tapestry, 96 
" Bergeres," 21, 25, 26, 92, 95, 
g6, 102, 103, 104, 114, 115, 121 



Bimont, the writer, 98, 104 
Blondel, the architect (he left 
work entitled " De la Dis- 
tribution des Maisons de Cam- 
pagne"), 16, 22, 24, 41, 118 
" Bonheur du jour," kind of 

bureau, 85, 86 
" Bonnetiere " cap-cupboard, 70 
Bordeaux, town of France, 45, 

66, 67, 78, 79 
Borders, frames, 109 
Boucher, the painter, 52 
"Boudoir," kind of "bergeres, "96 
BouUe, Andre Charles, cabinet- 
maker like his sons, 16, 47, 48, 
70, 75 
" Bourgeoisie," citizenship, 72 
" Bout de pied " (literally, foot- 
end), low "bergere," 103 
Brazil, wood from this country, 

48 
Britanny, province of, 44, 48, 64, 

70, 72, no 
Brizeux, the architect, 16 
Brocate, kind of marble, 60 
Bruges, Belgian town, 98 
" Buffet": — I. " Vaisselier," 
dresser-sideboard, 73 
2. " Credence," 72 
Bureau, desk or writing-table, 
furniture, 83-87 

" Cabinet," designs in Britanny, 
the wardrobe, 63 

"Cabriolet (en)," kind of arm- 
chair, 25, 39, 93, 97 

" Cachet," 71 

Cafl&eri, Jacques, the sculptor, son 
of Philippe Caffieri the first, 13, 

34- "5 
Caffieri, Philippe II, son of 

Jacques, sculptor, 13, 34 
" Caissons," coffers, 80 



128 



INDEX-GLOSSARY 



Campan, Madame ("Memoires"), 

25 

" Canape/' kind of sofa (bench), 
104 

" Capucine (a la)," kind of arm- 
chair and of straw chairs, loi 

Carna valet, Musec, 57 

Carrara, marble of, 50 

" Cartouche," wood ornament, 
38. 115 

"Chaise-longue," couch, 25, 102, 
103 

Champagne, province of, 48, 73 

Chantilly, town, north of Paris, 

41 
Chardin, the French traveller, 40 
Chardin, the painter (" Instant 

de la Meditation "), author, 

99, 107 
Chenier, Andre, the poet, 125 
" ChifEonnier, " high commode, 

75-76, 78 
" Chiffonniere," kind of table, 

77, 88, 91, 118 
China, the country, 35, 40-43, 

55. "7 
" Chinoiseries," Chinese articles, 

4- 54. 55. 71. 107. 115. 116 
Clairon, Mile, Revolution's ac- 
tress, 18 
Clocks, furniture, 108 
Cluny, Musee de, 57 
Cochin, Charles Nicolas, the en- 
graver, 15, 17, 118 
" Commode," chest of drawers, 

76-79 
" Console "{see Table) 
" Convalescente," kind of "ber- 

gere," 96 
" Coq d'Inde," turkey, 39 
" Corbeille de mariage," 63 
Coromandel, lacquers from, 55, 

107 
" Correntilles " {see Table) 
Crecy, Chateau de. North France, 

71 
" Credence," kind of sideboard, 
Provenfal furniture {see Buf- 
fet), 72 



Cressent, Charles, the sculptor, 

9. 13, 47 
" Cul-de-lampe (en)," 82 
Cupboards, furniture (" Ar- 

moires " in French), 61, 62, 

63-71. 
Cuvillies, the designer, 122 

Dagly, the glazer, 56 

D'Argenson, Marquis, 116 

Dauphin, King's son, 56 

David, the painter, 3 

De Bandeville, the Presidente, 
26 

De Belhorabre, Monsieur, 46 

De Berry, the Duchesse, 76 

De Bonnac, Marquis, 26 

Debucourt, Philippe, the en- 
graver, 125 

De Caylus, Comte, 15 

De Cotte, Robert, the architect, 

7. 9 
De Fontenelle, the writer, 2 
De Grimm, Frederic Melchior, 

the writer, 19 
De la Boissiere, Monsieur, 86 
De la Fontaine, Jean, the fabu- 
list, 96 
De la Popeliniere, Madame, 61 
De Luynes, Duke (he writes 

"Memoires "), 16 
De Mailly, Madame, 96 
De Marigny, Marquis de, brother 

of Madame de Pompadour, 14 
De Metternich, the Austrian 

Minister, 34 
De Montesquieu, the writer, 2, 

17. 125 
De Parabere, Madame, 28 
De Pompadour, Marquise, 14, 15, 

19, 28, 40, 46, 61, 71, 97, 102, 

105, 116, 117 
De Richelieu, Marshal, 6r 
De Rohan, Princess, 55 
" Deshabille," dressing-gown, go, 

104 
De Soubise, Prince, 54 
De Troy, the painter, 125 
De Voltaire, the writer, 2, 40 



INDEX-GLOSSARY 



129 



" Dictionnaire critique, pittor- 
esque, etc.," 11 

" Dictionnaire de Trevoux " 
(170S), 76 

Diderot, Denis, the philosopher, 
19, 114 

Directory Style, 5 

Dordogne, the river, 66 

D'Orleans, Duchess, 76 

D'Orleans, Philippe, the Regent, 
3,6 

Dresden, flowers of, in Saxon5^ 
117 

Drouot, the Hotel, auction rooms 
in Paris, iii 

Duchess, the, bed, 105 

" Duchesse brisee," kind of re- 
cumbent chair in three pieces, 
103 

Duchesses, couch, 25, 103, 104, 
118, 121 

Dumb waiter {see Table) 

Dutch art, 48, 79 

Duvaux Lazare, the merchant- 
mercer, 12, 13, 18, 45, 46, 
54, 71, 77, 86, 87, 117 

" Ebenistes," cabinet-maker, 
12, 13 

Egyptian-green, 60 

Elbeuf, Norman town, 96 

" Empire " Style, 8 

" Encyclopaedia," the, of d' Alem- 
bert and Diderot, 20, 49, 65, 
87, 114 

" En galante," method of hair- 
dressing, 90 

English table [see Table) 

" Epergnes," used for table de- 
coration, 116 

"EJquivoque, en," method of 
hair-dressing, 90 

" Escudie," Gascon name for a 
dresser-sideboard, 73 

" Espagnolettes," bronzes, 9 

" Etagire," set of shelves, 73 

Fire-screens, 107 
I'lemish Style, 3, 79 

VII 



Flying-table {see Table) 

" Folly," pleasure-house, 54 

" Form," seventeenth-century 

bench, 105 
" Format," size of the book, 70 
Frederick II, Kng of Prussia, 

57. 58 

Gabriel, Jacques Ange, the 

architect, 15 
" Garderobe," the wardrobe 

(in Provence), 63 
Garonne, the river, 66 
Gascony, province of, 73 
Gaudreaux, Fran9ois Antoine, 

cabinet-maker, 13 
Genoa, damask of, 97, 98 
Germanic art, the, 43 
Gillot, Claude, the painter, 9 
Gothic art, the, 27, 42, 43 
Greek art, the, 28 
Greuze, the painter (author of the 

" Malediction matemelle "), 

102 
Grizel, the writer, 60 
" Gros de Tours," the tapestry, 

97 
Guimard, Mademoiselle, famous 
dancer, 81 

Haiti, Isle of, 45 

Hamilton, Anthony, the Scots- 
man, 2 

Havard, Henry, author of the 
great ' ' Dictionnaire de 1 ' Ameu - 
blement," 12, 19 

Havre, Le, seaport, 45 

Henry II Style, 74 

Herculaneum and Pompei ruins, 
influence, 18 

Honduras, the country, 45 

" Hotel Drouot " {see Drouot) 

Houdon, the sculptor, 116 

" Huchiers-menuisiers," hutcher- 
joiners, 12 

India, the country, 45, 47, 50, 

107, 119, 122 
Inn-tables {see Table) 



130 



INDEX-GLOSSARY 



" Invenlaire gen6ral du Mobilier 

de la Couronne " (1760), 74 
Italian art, style, 42, 50, 114 

"Jardiniere," flower-stand, 120 
Jeaurat, the engraver, 118, 125 
Jesuits, the Catholic fathers, 39 
Jouy, village near Paris, where 

the Oberkampf factory was 

founded, 122 

Langlois, the glazer, 56 

Law, the financier, 7 

Le Brun, Charles, King Louis 
XIV's painter, 2, 4 

Lekain, the actor, 18 

Lenormant de Tournehem, uncle 
by marriage of Madame de 
Pompadour, 14 

Le Notre, the garden-draughts- 
man, 5 

Le Roy, the decorator-glazer, 56 

Lesage, author of " Gil Bias " 
and "Turcaret," 2 

Les Andelys in Normandy, 42 

" Ling^re," wardrobe, in south- 
west France, 63 

Lorient, seaport of France, 45 

Loriot, cabinet-maker of Louis 

■ XV, 27 

Lorrain, from the province of 
Lorraine, 64 

Louis the Great {see Louis XIV), 
40 

Louis the Well-Beloved {see 
Louis XV), 40 

Louis XIII, the, St^de, 32 

Louis XIV, the, Style, i, 2, 3, 20, 
24, 25, 29, 36, 53, 92 

Louis XV, characteristics of the. 
Style, 2, 21-43 

Louis XV, the King, 5, 27, 95 

Louis XVI, the. Style, i, 16, 19, 
32, 37. 69, 75. 81, 87, 122 

Louis-Philippe, the. Style, 74 

" Magots," Chinese figures, 4, 

117 
" Manchette," cushion, 94 



Mansart, Fran9ois, first architect 

of King Louis XIV, 7 
Marble, 60, 82 
Marie-Antoinette, the Queen, 23, 

126 
Marivaux, the writer, 2 
Marly, King's residence, 4, 14, 

102 
Marot, the decorator, 4 
Marseilles, the seaport town, 119 
Martin, the (four brothers, all 

glazers), 55, 56, 57 
Meissonier, Juste Aur^le, the 
ornament designer, 6, 7, 8, 13 
" Menage," dresser-sideboard, in 

Champagne, 73 
" Menuisiers d'assemblage," 

solid wooden furniture- 
makers, 12 
de placage," veneerers, 12 
de marqueterie," inlayers, 
12 
Mercier, Sebastien, the writer, 

10, II 
"Mercure de France," the 
French periodical publication, 
17, 27, 60 
Michelet, Jules, the historian, 21, 

28 
Migeon, the cabinet-maker, 61 
" Moire," kind of satin, 97-99, 

114 
Moliere, the author-comedian, 5 
Mondonville, French composer, 

40 
Monsigny, French composer, 40 
" Moquette," stuff, 99, 105, 114, 

115, 118 
Moreau, the painter (author of 
" Petit Souper)," 125 

Nattier, Jean Marc, the painter, 

17 
Netherlandish monkeys, 3, 79 
Nemorin, allegorical personage 

often employed in the pastoral 

scenes, 40 
Normandy, the province of, 44, 

64, 65, 68, 70, 72, no 



INDEX-GLOSSARY 



13 



Oberkampf, chintz manufac- 
turer, 122 

" Obligeante," kind of " ber- 
gere," 96 

Oeben, Jean Frangois, the cabi- 
net-maker, 13, 14 

Oppenord,Gilles-Marie,the archi- 
tect-designer, 6, 7, 8 

Pagodas {see " Magots ") 

Palissy, Bernard, the ceramis+, 6 

" Pamela^" an eighteenth-cen- 
tury novel, 88 

" Paphose," kind of bed, 103 

" Papier," paper, 115 

" Papier d'Angleterre," flock 
paper, 115 

" Papier de tontisse," paper, 115 

" Papier drappe," paper, 115 

" Par excellence," 90 

Parisian flat, 113, 120 

Patte, Pierre, the architect, 23 

" Paysan parvenu," the upstart 
countryman, novel, 88 

Pekin^silk of, 97 

Persian carpet, 115 

" Pied de table," table-leg, 82 

" Pieds de biche," doe's feet, 3, 
29, 39. 80 

" Pieds de J^suite," woodwork, 
39 

" Point de Hongrie," herring- 
bone pattern, 24, 50 

Poisson, Mademoiselle [see De 
Pompadour), 15 

" Portor," kind of marble, 60 

Potsdam, near Berlin, 57 

" Poudreuse," toilet table, 88 

" Pourpre," precious shell, 26 

" Poussah," 77 

Provencal, the. Style, 20, 67, 68, 
70, 106 

Provence, the province of, 48, 63, 
65. 72 

QuiMPER, French town, no 

RifecAMiER, Madame, 104 
" R^champi," 54 



Regency, the, Style, i, 4, 5, 35, 

45, 55, 75. 90, 94 

" Renaissance " the. Style, 34, 
52 

Rhodes, the wood of, 49 

Riesener, Jean-Henri, the cabi- 
net-maker, 13 

" Rigueur, de," 94, 117 

" Rinceaux," woodwork, 38, 49, 

59 
"' Rocaille," the. Style (in favour 
between the Louis XIV and 
Louis XV Styles), 6, 7, 8, 10, 

15, 16. 17 

" Rondin," round cushion, 103 

" Roquillards," the base of the 
cupboard, 30 

" Roses d'Amathonte," wood- 
work, 38 

Roubo, junior, 93 

Rouen, the French town, 96, 102, 
no 

Saint-Antoine, Faubourg, in 

Paris, 68 
Saint-Hubert, Chateau de, 105 
Saintongeais, of the province of 

Saintonge, 69 
Saint-Ouen, suburb of Paris, 54 
Saint-Wulfran at Abbeville in 

Somme, 42 
Sans-Souci, Frederick II's resi- 
dence, 57 
" Satinade," kind of stuff, 98 
" Scalata," precious shell, 26 
Scallop-shell, " Coquille " in 

French, 35, 44 
Screens, 106 

" Scribanne," secretary - com- 
mode made by the Dutch, 79 
Seats, 25, 92-106 
caned, loi 

characteristics of, 25, 92 
how to cover the Louis XV 

96-100 
straw, loi 
stuffed, 93-101 
Secretary-commode {see Frontis- 
piece), 75, 78 



132 



INDEX-GLO SSARY 



" Serre-papiers," paper-holder, 

84 
Seven Years War (i 756-1 763), 

78 
" Siamoise," stuff, 98, 100, 102 
" Singeries," monkeyisms, 41 
Slodtz, the decorator, 7 
Souffiot, Jacques-Germain, the 

architect, 16 
" Sultane," kind of bed, 103 

" Tabernacle, tiny hinged cup- 
board, 73 
Table, 26, 80-91 

" Ambulante," 82 

bed, 90 

bureau, 81-88 

card, 83 

" console," 82-93 

" Correntilles," 82 

dining-room, 81 

dumb waiter, 81 

English, with adjustable 
leaves, 81 

flying-, 27 

inn- or "cabaret," 26 

jewels, 90 

night, 90 

toilet, 88-90 

" volante," 27 

work, 87 

writing, 86 
" Tabouret," stool, 105 



Tavernier, French travelU 
Toilet (see Arm-chair) 
Trianon, near Versailles, i 
" Tripe," stuflE, 99 
Troyes, cathedral of, 42 
Turkey, 41, 103 
" Turquoise," kind of bed 
104 

Utrecht, Dutch town, 99 
115 

" Vaisselier," dresser-side 

in Auvergne, 73, 74 
Van Loo, French painter, 4 
" Veilleuse," or English be 

Bed), 103 
"Veilleuses," couch, 25 
Velvet, the, stuff, 83 
of Genoa, 98 
of Utrecht, 99 
" Verdure," Flemish stuff, 
Versailles, King's residem 

14. 23 
" Vertugadins," dress, 94 
" Vide-poche," pocket-em 

90 
Vincennes, town near 

flowers, 116-117 

Wallace, the, Collection, 
Watteau, Antoine, the pa 
3. 9 



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